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Australia ups Middle East arms sales

Aug. 21, 2012 at 10:06 AM   |   Comments

CANBERRA, Australia, Aug. 21 (UPI) -- Since 2009 Australia has sold more than $13 million in military equipment to three Middle East nations.

Turkey, Oman and Saudi Arabia are three of Australia's newest markets for military equipment, the Defense Materiel Organization said.

"From fighter planes and satellites to tents and rations, the Defense Material Organization is Australia's largest project management organization and its mission is to acquire and sustain equipment for the Australian Defense Force," DMO, a branch of Australia's Ministry of Defense, notes on its Web site.

"The DMO exists to meet the Australian Defense Force's military equipment and supply requirements as identified by Defense and approved by Government. The 2012 Public Defense Capability Plan provides an account of Major Capital Equipment proposals that are currently planned for government consideration (either first or second pass approval).

"The projects outlined in the public version of the Defense Capability Plan 2012 reflect the strategic and defense requirements outlined in the Defense White Paper 2009, Defending Australia in the Asia Pacific Century: Force 2030."

The Ministry of Defense declined, however, to disclose what Australian private defense companies have been exporting to the three nations, the Canberra Times reported.

Australian arms sales to the Middle East could soon expand, however. The Defense Export Unit, an Australian government initiative, which was established to support a strong, long-term Australian military industry by helping contractors find overseas business so they didn't have to rely solely on supplying Australian defense needs, has undertaken a trade mission to the Middle East.

In July the Australian government established an Australian Military Sales Office, an integrated entity to allow the government to sell Australian-made defense equipment that is in active service with the Australian military, directly to foreign government clients on behalf of Australian manufacturers.

Government support for Australian arms exports are welcomed by the country's defense manufacturers, who are finding local conditions difficult due to both the strength of the Australian dollar and recent cuts to the government's defense budget.

The push for increased Australian arms exports is at odds with another government initiative, as in July Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs Bob Carr issued a news release stating that he would seek U.N. support for a treaty to require countries to track and report on major arms transfers and sales, leading to greater enforcement of U.N. arms embargos and sanctions regimes.

"We're seeking a comprehensive agreement on arms control -- enforceable through public reporting to the U.N. -- and aimed at reducing the continued flow of conventional weapons to rogue groups and terrorists," Carr said.

"Each day there are around 2,000 deaths in conflicts fueled by illegally traded arms. Yet as Amnesty International points out, global trade in some foods is more strictly regulated than trade in weapons. Momentum is building for action on an arms trade treaty.

"Countries heavily affected by illegal weapons trades -- in Africa, the Pacific and the Caribbean -- are looking to Australia and others for leadership. We'll be taking up that challenge with this national address to the U.N. -- pushing for a unified international response, and for a crackdown on illegal arms sales around the world."

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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