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Cabinet in arms to Israel row
Kamal Ahmed, political editor
Sunday July 7, 2002
Britain is bypassing its own arms embargo on Israel by selling military equipment via America.
In a move that has split the Cabinet, the Foreign Office is set to reveal that components for F16 fighter planes will be allowed to leave the country despite being destined for aircraft already sold to Ariel Sharon's government.
The move will be viewed with dismay by Arab states and anti-arms campaigners who say the arming of Israel raises tension in the area. One senior Government figure said there was a 'clear understanding' the fighter planes could be used for aggressive acts against the Occupied Territories, in direct contradiction to Tony Blair's call for peace.
Israel regularly uses F16s for assaults on the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. They have been used in attacks on Rafah and the Palestinian securty compound in Nablus, killing civilians.
Government sources admitted the issue was 'delicate' and that rules on sales to embargoed countries via third countries were vague. One said the charge of hypocrisy would be 'difficult to head off'.
'We look at these things on a case-by-case basis,' said one senior Downing Street official. 'We have to make it clear we will only sell to countries where there are effective procedures for controlling which countries the equipment is sold on to.'
The deal will again focus attention on the Government's attitude to military sales abroad and raise the possibility that any arms embargo can be bypassed by selling to a third country.
The Government was condemned this year when it was revealed it was backing a £28 million military air traffic control system for Tanzania despite claims the country did not need and could not afford such a high-tech system.
The Ministry of Defence has been pushing for the Israel deal to go through, despite opposition from Patricia Hewitt, the Trade and Industry Secretary. She is worried about the negative message such a deal sends to Arab supporters and the rest of the European Union.
However, Hewitt will now back the deal as long as the rules on future contracts to third countries are clear. Britain is to provide sophisticated navigation and targeting equipment for the F16s, which are being built in America for Israel.
The 'head-up displays' allow pilots to see positional and weapons information displayed in front of each eye without having to look at separate dials. It is sold as allowing pilots to fly with fewer distractions and increasing the accuracy of bombing raids.
The MoD admitted the contract was part of a wooing exercise to get US military business. Britain and the US are already planning a £100 billion joint strike fighter project.
'We have to get as much of that business as possible and we cannot be prescriptive on what we will and won't sell them,' said one MoD source. 'The British defence industry employs tens of thousands of people. We have to show we are a reliable supplier of high-tech defence equipment.'
The Foreign Office has already officially warned Israel about using British equipment to target the Occupied Territories.
In May, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw demanded an explanation from Sharon's government about the use of British military equipment in tanks and attack helicopters. Straw was furious that their use had come to light despite a written pledge from Israel in November 2000 that said 'no UK-originated equipment . . . is used as part of the defence force's activities in the territories'.
Campaigners against the new Israeli arms deal will point to guidelines published by the Government in 1997. They said that departments 'will not issue an export licence if there is a clearly identifiable risk that the intended recipient would use the proposed export aggressively against another country'.
Although the Palestinian Authority areas are not officially a country, Blair has said that he supports a separate Palestinian state.
The Sunday Times - Britain
July 07, 2002
CofE will try to convert Muslims
EVANGELICALS within the Church of England will try to convert Muslims, Hindus and followers of other religions to the Christian faith.
A move to recruit other faiths was passed overwhelmingly by the General Synod, the churchs governing body, when it met in York yesterday. It was one of several issues bringing controversy to the last synod to be convened under the leadership of George Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who retires in October.
Recruiting non-believers has always been regarded as one of the chief duties of Christians. But setting out to convert members of other faiths is fraught with difficulties and in recent years care has been taken to avoid targeting other religions.
But the motion debated yesterday demanded that the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ must be shared with all, including people of other faiths or of no faith. It was passed by 301 votes to 10, with an amendment that Christians will be willing to learn and be enriched by other faiths.
The proposer, George Kovoor, a leading official of the Church Missionary Society, said: Its a human rights issue. You cannot deny access to information about Christ. Alison Ruoff, a leading evangelical from the diocese of London, said: Christians have to say the gospel is for everyone. We have to stand up and not be concerned about being politically correct.
Leading Muslims expressed their concerns about the targeting of other religions. Suleman Nagdi, of the Federation of Muslim Organisations, said: Christians will be doing active missionary work through interfaith work, and this could be damaged as we will be suspicious that they have an agenda.
The idea of converting other faiths has arisen partly because the Church of England has lost nearly a quarter of its active membership since 1990. The decline in the 1990s was the sharpest in the 20th century. Many parish congregations now have only five or six regulars.
But Carey, in an interview with The Sunday Times, said he was confident about church growth. He had told the synod that only 8% of people in Britain are from other faiths and the church should concentrate on those shaped by Christianity.
He also sought to distance himself from those seeking to reduce the churchs links with the state an issue that could lead to an early clash between his successor, expected to be Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Wales, and the government.
The synod is to debate a motion put by Colin Buchanan, the Bishop of Woolwich, seeking to end the crowns almost 500-year hold on the appointment of bishops, although it is now the prime minister who effectively makes appointments by nomination to the Queen.
Williams is known to be sympathetic to loosening the ties between church and state. Declaring self-determination on the appointment of bishops is seen by some as the first step towards disestablishment.
In a veiled rebuke to those campaigning for the split, Carey said yesterday: The Church of England will be still established in 25 years time. Establishment is a contract between nation and church, and the church is an essential part of the fabric of the constitution of this country.
The synod is also due to debate the thorny issue of allowing marriage in church after divorce. If the rules are altered, it would allow for possible future church weddings for people such as the Prince of Wales and Camilla Parker Bowles.
Carey also faces possible embarrassment over a report from the synods board for social responsibility on the conflict in the Middle East. Called Israel-Palestine: An Unholy War, it portentously announces: The July 2002 General Synod offers the opportunity to escape the paralysis (of the Middle East conflict).
In a section on the destruction of the refugee camp of Jenin, it says: It will be impossible to establish whether or not a massacre did actually occur.
But Lord Janner, the president of the Commonwealth Jewish Council, said the report was unworthy. He added: The United Nations said there was no massacre.
Additional reporting: Jonathan Wynne-Jones
The Muslim News
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