Labour Party Conference: East Timor - Cook rejects criticism of arms sales

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The Independent Online
ROBIN COOK sought to quell controversy over arms sales to Indonesia yesterday, denying ministers had allowed weapons to be exported for the repressive occupation of East Timor.

The Foreign Secretary insisted to delegates that the Government had rejected every licence when the weapons could have been used for suppressing democracy.

Mr Cook's denial followed criticism of his "ethical foreign policy" in response to Indonesia's use of British hawk jets over East Timor. "Your government has not sold weapons that would suppress democracy or freedom," he said. "We refused them sniper rifles, we refused them silenced firearms and ... armoured Land Rovers."

Mr Cook said he was content to be judged by the East Timorese. "I promised the people of East Timor that we would not allow their cry for freedom to be drowned in blood. We are delivering on that promise. Our troops were among the first ashore."

However, Glenys Kinnock, a Labour MEP and wife of the European Commissioner and former Labour leader Neil Kinnock, warned that the European Union's code of conduct of arms control had to be improved if it wanted to fight suppression.

Earlier Mr Cook stepped up his campaign for Britain's entry into the single currency after the next election. "If the economic conditions are right, Labour will not let Britain lose out by staying out," he said.