UK cancels arms licences to Bahrain and Libya over protestors' suppression fears

 
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London, Feb 19 (ANI): Britain has cancelled over 50 arms export licences for Bahrain and Libya fearing that the security forces of these Gulf countries would use weapons supplied by London to suppress protestors, which might eventually give rise to 'prolonged regional or internal conflicts'.

The cancelled licences reportedly include items like tear gas and ammunition that could be used to suppress demonstrations.

A day after announcing a review of arms export licences to Bahrain, Britain's coalition government said that it had "taken a decision to revoke 24 individual licences and 20 open licences" for the Gulf state, The Telegraph reports.

Individual licences authorise a single arms sale while open licences cover multiple sales to a range of destinations, it added.

The paper quoted the British government as saying that eight individual licences for Libya have been cancelled so far, while a review of export licences to regions, including Yemen, was continuing.

At least 60 pro-democracy protestors were reportedly wounded after security forces fired on them on Friday in Bahrain. A day earlier, police had killed four protesters and wounded more than 230 in Manama.

The situation also remains tense in Libya were protests have led to death of at least 24 people on Wednesday and Thursday in the country's second city Benghazi, according to Human Rights Watch.

While announcing the decision to revoke arms export licences, British Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt said in a statement that: "We are deeply concerned about the situation in Bahrain and the events which have led to the deaths of several protesters."

Although the Foreign Office has denied allegations that British equipment had been used in the unrest in Bahrain, it said that the government would not issue licences at a time when there was a clear risk that the "proposed export might provoke or prolong regional or internal conflicts, or ... might be used to facilitate internal repression."

Earlier, Human rights groups had called for an immediate suspension of arms supplies to Bahrain, and an explanation why they were granted.

"We closely consider allegations of human rights abuses. We will not authorise any exports which, we assess, might provoke or prolong regional or internal conflicts, which might be used to facilitate internal repression," Burt had said. (ANI)

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