Arms industry 'flouting export laws'

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Weapons companies are using globalisation to routinely flout arms control laws and supply lethal products to repressive regimes, according to a new report.

The industryis using outsourcing to breach embargoes. Offshore production companies and foreign subsidiaries are set up in countries which have few controls over where the weapons end up.

The report, Arms Without Borders, by Oxfam, Amnesty International and the International Action Network on Small Arms, points out, for example, that the European Union prohibits selling helicopters to Israel. But Apache gunships used in the recent attacks in Lebanon, which drew widespread condemnation, were built with components made in Britain, Ireland and the Netherlands. During the same conflict British security equipment sent to Iran for anti-drugs operations was found in the possession of Hizbollah fighters.

By the end of this year world military spending is estimated to reach an unprecedented $1,058.9bn (£562bn) - roughly 15 times international aid expenditure. This is higher than the Cold War record reached in 1987-88 of $1,034 in today's prices.

"This report reveals a litany of loopholes and destroyed lives ... Europe and North America are fast becoming the Ikea of the arms industry, supplying parts for human rights abusers to assemble at home, with the morals not included. It is time for an arms trade treaty," said Jeremy Hobbs, director of Oxfam.