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UK 'clearing backlog' of arms licence applications for Israel

 London, July 22, IRNA -- The process of approving arms export         
licences for Israel was reported to have picked up following the      
resolution of Britain 'soft' embargo on military equipment.           
    Jane's Defence Weekly quoted Israeli diplomatic sources saying    
that they foresaw "no further problems" following Ariel Sharon's      
visit to London earlier this month.                                   
    A British Trade Department spokesman also confirmed that the      
government was "working hard to clear the backlog," but insisted that 
"one shouldn't read into this a change in UK policy." Arms licences   
were said to be still assessed on a "case-by-case basis."             
    British arms sales to Israel have included components for Apache  
helicopters, Merkava tanks, F-16 fighter jets, airborne electronic    
warfare equipment, anti-armour missiles, assault rifles, ammunition   
 and armoured personnel carriers converted from Centurion tanks.      
    The latest figures from the British Foreign Office suggest that   
the approval of arms export licences for Israel started to            
dramatically increase in the last two months of last year despite     
showing a sharp fall in the number issued during 2002.                
    Jane's quoted a supplier of British engines for unmanned aircraft 
saying that in the last two weeks he had seen a "700 percent increase"
in activity related to export licences, including Israel.             
    Report of a 'soft' embargo being imposed against Israel coincided 
with the UK government insisting that it was assessing licences "on a 
case-by-case basis against the Consolidated EU and National Arms      
Export Licensing criteria in the light of the circumstance prevailing 
at the time."                                                         
    It came after Foreign Secretary Jack Straw revealed in March 2002 
that he had evidence that the Zionist regime was using British        
military equipment against the Palestinians in the occupied           
territories, contrary to a written guarantee.                         
    UK regulations also insist that export licences should not be     
issued where there is a "a clear risk that the items might be used in 
international repression, international aggression, adversely affect  
regional stability or prolong internal conflict."                     
    Between January 1 and November 7 last year, Britain approved 67   
Standard Individual Licences for Israel, of these 53 were issued in   
the first three months of 2002.                                       
    The Foreign Office's annual report of Strategic Exports for last  
year shows that based on these figures the number of licences         
approved increased to 94 during the rest of November and December.    

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