Libyan sales approved despite worries

Sept. 8, 2009 at 10:37 AM
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LONDON, Sept. 8 (UPI) -- The British government approved exports of water cannons to Libya even though some feared the gear could be used to repress civilians, documents indicate.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office's U.K. Strategic Export Controls Annual Report 2008 says the government was warned that, in the wake of civilian deaths during riots in Benghazi, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi could use the water cannons as tools for internal repression, but the equipment sale was nonetheless approved, The Times of London reported.

The sales were part of an $8.3 million shipment to Libya in 2007 that also included armored all-wheel-drive vehicles. The approvals also came as British oil company BP, with the help of the British government, was negotiating a lucrative oil deal with Libya, The Times noted.

William Hague, the Conservative Party shadow foreign secretary, reportedly demanded Tuesday that Foreign Secretary David Miliband explain why government ministers went ahead with the sale despite the internal misgivings.

The controversy follows accusations that the release from a Scottish jail of terminally ill Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi was also connected to the BP negotiations.

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