East Timor Crisis: Arms - All UK military aid may cease

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN'S MILITARY aid to Indonesia will come under scrutiny today when European Union foreign ministers meet to consider an arms embargo.

Britain continued to provide training for Indonesian officers and has spent pounds 400,000 on the aid since Labour came to power. Now courses at such centres as the joint services staff college in Bracknell, Berkshire may end.

Tony Blair and Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, have already agreed to suspend arms sales, including delivery of nine Hawk jets given export licences by the Conservatives. Although ministers had said the Hawks should not be used in East Timor, jets delivered as part of an earlier batch have been flying over the area.

Since the 1997 general election Indonesia's armed forces have continued to receive support from the Defence Military Assistance Fund and other government sources despite condemnation of the country's human-rights abuses.

The money, spent mainly by the Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence, does not include the budget for promoting arms sales to the regime, which remains secret. Indonesian soldiers and seamen have also received aid from British experts in their own country.

Last night a Ministry of Defence spokesman said military aid would be discussed when EU ministers meet today to discuss Indonesia. "Since 1997 [the MoD] has had 24 Indonesian military personnel on courses in the UK. We have got a handful of them here at the moment but most are due to leave very shortly."

Close colleagues of the Foreign Secretary hinted last night that he would have liked to have called an earlier halt to the sale of arms to Indonesia. He had pressed other government departments which were more keen on the sales to scale them down, they said.

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