Letter: Merchants of misery

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The Independent Culture
Sir: You mention the role of arms dealing in fuelling wars in Africa, and the European Union currently has a vital opportunity to clamp down on one aspect of this deadly trade ("Misery engulfs millions as Africa seethes with more wars than ever", 30 January).

The ability of arms brokers in the EU to organise shipments of weapons from third countries to virtually anywhere in the world has to be curtailed. If the weapons do not touch EU soil, they are not subject to EU export controls.

During its presidency of the EU, the German government is expected to propose that transfers brokered through third countries by EU-based companies are subject to the same restrictions as weapons exported directly from the EU. These proposals should be supported by the UK government, which only tends to control brokering of arms to embargoed destinations and brokered transfers of torture equipment, anti-personnel mines and long-range missiles to other countries.

Welcome as the UK steps are, they ignore the fact that many brokered arms deals involve exports of light weapons - machine guns, rifles and mortars - to countries in conflict regions but not subject to any embargo. With 46 out of the 49 conflicts since 1990 being fought with small arms, such an omission is a crucial mistake.

IAN DAVIS

Arms Trade Programme, Saferworld

London WC1

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