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Poor US oversight of Gulf arms sales: govt audit
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Nov 18, 2011

US authorities have failed to adequately monitor weapons sales to Gulf countries criticized for dismal rights records or recent security crackdowns on protesters, a government audit said Friday.

The Government Accountability Office pointed to "gaps" in how the State Department and the Pentagon monitor military equipment, including sensitive technology, after it is sold.

Rising tensions in the Middle East and North Africa between long-standing regimes and protesters seeking their removal triggered concern from government auditors, especially ahead of a looming $53 million arms deal with Bahrain.

While the State Department has vetted hundreds of individuals and units due to receive US-funded training in the Gulf to make sure the equipment will not be used for rights abuses, it has not done so for $188 million in assets due to reach Oman and Bahrain, the GAO said.

"Such vetting is especially critical given Bahrain's use of its security forces to quell public demonstrations since Spring 2011," it said, noting the lapses mean that sensitive technology like night vision devices are left "prone to diversion."

Earlier this year, Bahrain's Sunni monarchy crushed pro-democracy protests, spearheaded by the majority Shiites, with the help of troops from other Arab states in the Gulf, led by Saudi Arabia.

Twenty-four people died during the month-long crackdown, according to official figures from Manama. Four protesters have since died in custody. The opposition says 40 people were killed.

Auditors also criticized the Defense Department for failing to document its efforts to verify the security and accountability procedures in countries receiving sensitive military equipment, while Pentagon staff in five of six Gulf countries did not document monitoring activities for less sensitive items.

"We need to ensure that the equipment is not being diverted to third parties, and that those groups and units who are the intended recipients are not implicated in human rights violations," said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Gulf Cooperation Council countries -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- are among the US military's biggest clients, with some $22 billion in arms sales from 2005 to 2009.

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S.African arms deal case dropped, clearing way for inquiry
Johannesburg (AFP) Nov 17, 2011 - A high-profile lawsuit tied to a $5-billion South African arms deal was withdrawn Thursday, removing a legal hurdle to a new inquiry ordered by President Jacob Zuma.

Anti-graft campaigner Terry Crawford-Browne, who has sought for the last decade to reverse the military contracts, had filed the case seeking to force Zuma to re-open an investigation that had reached into the top levels of South African politics.

Three weeks before the Constitutional Court hearing Thursday, Zuma announced a new commission of inquiry led by three top judges.

Crawford-Browne's decision to withdraw the case removes any question that the court could review Zuma's decision, clearing the way for the new investigation to proceed.

"The applicant is granted leave to withdraw," Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said, ordering Zuma to pay costs for the trial.

Defence attorney Hamilton Maenetje told the nine judges of country's top court that the parties had "resolved the matter".

The arms purchase has been clouded by allegations of bribery to senior government officials and blemished South Africa's young democracy.

The deal included 12 trainer Hawk jets and naval patrol boats from five European groups, including BAE systems and French arms firm Thales, which was then known as Thomson-CSF.

Swedish group Saab admitted in June that 24 million rand ($3.6 million, 2.5 million euros) in bribes had been paid to secure the South African contract, but blamed its former British partner BAE Systems for making the payoffs.

Last month, the justice minister said the new commission would have the power to subpoena witnesses including Zuma, recommend legal action against individuals involved and even cancel contracts.


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