Foreign Office let arms through

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Indy Politics
The Foreign Secretary, Malcolm Rifkind, last night accepted severe criticism of a Foreign Office breakdown in implementing the 1994 United Nations arms embargo against Rwanda.

An inter-departmental Whitehall committee was set up to investigate arms trafficking last November after journalists discovered documents in eastern Zaire suggesting that United Kingdom-based companies or individuals had been involved in the supply of arms from third countries to Rwandan extremists in Zaire during 1994. It was alleged that the supplies had been organised through Mil-Tec Corporation Ltd, registered in the Isle of Man.

The arms embargo was adopted by the UN on 17 May 1994 and promptly implemented in UK law by a legislative Order in Council the following month. But action to extend the provisions to Dependent Territories was not taken until April 1995 and work to apply the law to the Crown Dependencies - the Isle of Man and Channel Islands - "was not treated as a high priority".

The Foreign Office did nothing until August 1994 - "after the period over which Mil-Tec is alleged to have organised arms supplies" - and then, in January 1995, asked the Home Office to introduce the necessary orders for arms embargoes covering Rwanda, former Yugoslavia, Liberia and Somalia.

"The Home Office then commissioned work on the orders, but the work was not treated as a high priority until the recent Mil-Tec allegations emerged," the committee said.

The committee delivered its report on 17 December, and the necessary orders were made two days later - more than two years after the UN embargo had taken effect.