Defence staff 'were not gung-ho'

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The Independent Online
A SENIOR Ministry of Defence official yesterday denied MoD sales staff were 'gung-ho' in promoting military exports to Iraq.

Ian McDonald, who became a household name as the Government spokesman during the Falklands War, told the Scott inquiry into arms sales to Iraq that officials had been enthusiastic but remained within government guidelines.

Famous for his slow, robotic speech during press conferences, Mr McDonald has headed the MoD's Defence Export Services Secretariat (DESS), responsible for promoting government defence sales, since 1986.

He said he knew of no cases of officials subverting the guidelines in order to secure sales.

Asked if a memorandum by a Treasury official claiming one part of DESS was 'gung-ho to support military sales to Iraq and almost anywhere else' was fair comment, he replied: 'No.'

He disputed evidence from an earlier witness, Lt-Col Glazebrook, who said MoD sales staff refused to accept military experts' decisions that particular exports should be prohibited. Lt-Col Glazebrook said that rejected export applications were resubmitted 'again and again' to wear down experts.

Mr McDonald, insisted questions should only have been raised in 'borderline' cases, where factual errors in assessing the application had been made and if new relevant information became available. Asked about an application by Plessey in 1989 to sell radar- jamming equipment to Baghdad, which was brought forward for approval four times despite three rejections from military experts, he said: 'I regard it as an example of enthusiasm, not over-enthusiasm.' One role of his department was to ensure government guidelines were complied with.

The inquiry continues today.

(Photograph omitted)