How can a travelling salesman for the arms industry claim to be on the side of peace and democracy in the Middle East?

James Lyons

David Cameron has sparked fury by planning to help promote arms sales on a visit to the Middle East.

The Prime Minister will join up with representatives of British weapons manufacturers on the forthcoming trip to oil-rich states.

Mr Cameron wants to off-load warplanes ordered by the UK which are no longer wanted as well as winning other defence contracts for UK firms.

But campaigners condemned him for peddling arms to the region, which is still being shaken by the Arab Spring uprisings. Critics said that Mr Cameron’s trip raised “serious questions” about the Government’s commitment to promoting peace in the Middle East.

Britain exported weapons and crowd control equipment to Colonel Gaddafi’s Libya, Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt, and Bahrain just months before they launched violent crackdowns.

The Government revoked 158 arms export licences to those countries but later resumed arms sales to Bahrain.

Green MP Caroline Lucas said that while the economy needs a boost the PM should draw the line at “dirty money”.

“Unfortunately the UK has a shameful track record of exporting arms and equipment to regimes in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Libya – we can’t now claim to be on the side of peace and democracy while our Prime Minister acts as a travelling salesman for the arms industry.

“It’s time to urgently review our role in the international arms trade. Our economy may need a boost, but we certainly don’t need this dirty money.”

Henry McLaughlin, from the Campaign Against Arms Trade, added: “The Prime Minister claims that he wishes to support democracy in the Middle East but at the same time sells arms to these authoritarian regimes.

“Despite everything that has happened in the last two years, the UK government continues to bolster authoritarian regimes with weapons sales and to spend taxpayers’ money on promoting further deals.

“They don’t just approve arms sales, they promote it.”

It is not the first time Mr Cameron has been slammed for heading to the Middle East to promote arms sales.

This article originally appeared in The Mirror

05 Nov 2012

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