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Britain reviewing arms exports to Bahrain: minister

by Staff Writers
London (AFP) Feb 17, 2011
Britain said Thursday it was reviewing decisions to export arms to Bahrain after anti-government demonstrators were killed in clashes with security forces.

"In light of events we are today formally reviewing recent licencing decisions for exports to Bahrain," said Alistair Burt, a junior foreign minister with responsibility for the Middle East.

He warned that Britain would "urgently revoke licences if we judge that they are no longer in line with the criteria" used for the export of weapons.

In a statement, the minister said a range of licences had been approved for Bahrain in the last nine months.

"These include two single export licences for 250 tear gas cartridges to the Bahrain Defence Force and National Security Agency that were for trial/evaluation purposes."

Another licence that had been approved concerns "equipment that can be used for riot control", Burt said.

"The approval of these applications were judged to be consistent with the criteria at the time and followed precedents set by previous governments. As with all export licences for Bahrain, these are being urgently reviewed."

Burt added: "We closely consider allegations of human rights abuses. We will not authorise any exports which, we assess, might provoke or prolong regional or internal conflicts, which might be used to facilitate internal repression, or which would in any other way be contrary to the criteria."

The Bahraini army deployed across the capital Manama Thursday after three protesters were killed when riot police stormed through Pearl Square, the focus of pro-democracy protests.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague earlier called on Bahrain's rulers to exercise restraint in dealing with the protests.

In an apparent message to Iran, Hague also warned other nations not to meddle in the situation.

"We would strongly oppose any interference in the affairs of Bahrain by other nations or any action to inflame sectarian tensions between Bahrain's Sunni and Shia communities," he said.

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