Royal Navy sends warship to Libya

Undeclared arms race among European defence contractors to re-equip Libya’s armed forces causes concern among locals as the UK sends warship to showcase defence equipment.

Royal Navy sends warship to Libya to showcase defence equipment

Britain is trying to boost defence equipment sales to Libya by sending a Royal Navy warship to Tripoli to act as a floating shop window for security firms, amid concern in Whitehall that France and Italy are cashing in on the fall of Muammar Gaddafi.

But the trip, planned for April, has raised concerns among Libyan politicians and arms control campaigners who have demanded to know which companies will be on board and what kind of equipment they will be attempting to sell.

So far, UK Trade and Investment, the government agency organising the arms fair, has refused to disclose the businesses likely to be exhibiting, saying this would give European competitors an advantage.

UKTI said no weapons would be offered for sale and the Libyans would only be shown specialist equipment to help with port security and maintenance, as well as ribbed inflatable boats for patrolling the harbour, and uniforms.

Yet prominent Libyans have raised fears that the race to win defence contracts could lead to equipment getting into the wrong hands in a country where the government has a tenuous grip on security.

“I can’t see the point of having this kind of exhibition in Libya now,” said Hassan el-Amin, an independent member of congress, who lived in exile in the UK for 28 years and who is chair of the congress communications committee. “One of our problems is that arms are everywhere. I can’t see any point in an arms exhibition right now.”

The fair appears to be part of the UK government’s defence engagement strategy, which is designed to foster relations in areas where the UK has security – and business – interests.

The Ministry of Defence confirmed that a Royal Navy frigate would make a port call to Tripoli in the spring, but said it could not give further details for security reasons. However, the UKTI website said it was seeking British defence firms to take part in a “defence and security industry day” in Tripoli in April.

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Source: The Guardian.

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