Letter: Peace and secret arms deals

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The Independent Online
I WISH success to every effort to find peace, whether it be in the Middle East, the former Yugoslavia, Somalia or Ireland, but is it not rather hypocritical to work for peace while at the same time fuelling conflicts by selling arms? Britain's share of the world arms trade has risen from 9 per cent in 1989 to 20 per cent in 1993. Instabilities in the Middle East and South- east Asia are exploited for an easy profit. Arms sold to both sides during the Iran-Iraq war prolonged its duration. Britain's arms sale to Iraq helped Saddam Hussein build up enough military force to invade Kuwait. Who supplies Indonesia's rulers with arms? They have occupied East Timor for nearly 20 years. During this time one third of the Timorese population has been killed. But the majority of arms sales are to Third World countries often burdened with debt, poverty or repressive dictatorships. There are 28 wars being fought in the world today, in which millions of people have died.

Few of these wars could be fought if governments ceased selling weapons to the participants for a profit.

Secrecy seems to be the norm for the Government's arms exports policy. Full information about arms sales should be made available to Parliament and public. The Scott inquiry will be a waste of time unless it helps end such secrecy.

Rev Emlyn Richards

Anglesey, Gwynedd