Leading article: A regime we should not do business with

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The sale of arms to unpalatable regimes is turning into an ugly stain on the record of the Coalition Government – an unacceptable practice that, disturbingly, seems to cause neither the UK authorities nor our arms industry the slightest qualm.

In February, as Arab Spring uprisings were being brutally suppressed, David Cameron saw nothing wrong in attending an arms fair in Abu Dhabi, blithely dismissing the objection that his actions were wholly inconsistent with his avowed support for democracy in the region. Seven months on, another arms fair is taking place – it opens today in London's Docklands – and among the Government's invitees is a delegation from Bahrain, a dictatorship whose crackdown on pro-democracy protesters this year have left at least 30 people dead.

Britain was forced to revoke a number of export licenses against Bahrain after it emerged that in 2010 the Department of Business approved the export of a host of crowd-control weapons. That we are still in the business of trying to sell arms to a regime with so much of its own citizens' blood on its hands is nothing less than shameful.

What is happening can't be defended on the grounds that our arms industry employs thousands and makes an estimated £9bn a year in exports. Britain and Bahrain's long-standing close diplomatic ties are also irrelevant. Considerations of morality must come first.

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