Letters: The arms bazaar

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Your reports on the trading of Kosovo Liberation Army weapons on the international arms market (16 August) are alarming but not surprising. They highlight the loopholes in British law that allow British companies and citizens to organise the transfer of weapons from third countries to areas of armed conflict around the globe.

While the Department of Trade and Industry is taking steps to check arms brokering agents, more stringent curbs are vital. The DTI has proposed controlling all brokered arms transfers to countries under embargo and transfers of landmines, torture equipment and long-range missiles to other countries.

However, this means that British companies could continue to organise shipments of machine guns, rocket-launchers and assault rifles to countries such as Burundi, Cambodia, Indonesia and Yemen without an export licence from the UK government. A register of arms brokers is needed and all transfers organised by British companies and citizens should be subject to the same controls as direct exports from the UK.

Any cost incurred in implementing stronger checks would be nothing compared to the money spent in picking up the pieces of conflicts fuelled by the proliferation of arms.