British arms sales drive condemned by Amnesty

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THE GOVERNMENT'S "ethical" foreign policy is being undermined by its efforts to promote the sale of arms to regimes such as Indonesia's, which use the weapons for repression and torture, Amnesty International said yesterday.

In a damning annual audit of British foreign policy, the human rights group accused the Department of Trade and Industry of being seriously out of step with the policies advocated by Tony Blair and Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary."The Department of Trade and Industry in particular is not meeting its responsibility to promote trade in a manner which is not harmful to human rights," the report said.

Amnesty said it accepted that in the two years since Labour came to power, there had been a "genuine and active commitment to human rights in a number of areas".

But it said that during Labour's first year in office it approved 64 licences for arms exports to Indonesia. In 1997 more than 20 armoured combat vehicles and four aircraft worth pounds 112m were sold to the Jakarta regime. The department, Amnesty added, even approved four licences, including two to Indonesia, against the recommendation of the Department for International Development.

The Department of Trade and Industry yesterday denied it disregarded human rights violations. "We do take into account the individual human rights record of the country alongside the advice of the Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence," it said in a statement.