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UK to Rethink Selling Arms to Dictators: Writer

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TEHRAN, Feb 28 (ICANA)-Gaddafi's use of artillery and reportedly poison gas on innocent Libyan civilians has finally rubbed British political noses the wrong way and despite David Cameron being all smiles about his latest arms selling jaunt to the Middle East a definitive change of attitude is in the wind.
Monday, February 28, 2011 10:00:35 PM
UK to Rethink Selling Arms to Dictators: Writer

Jonathan Fryer, writer and broadcaster in London shares his insights with Press TV on certain aspects of the current situation in Libya and the impact developments are having on UK politics. Q: According to reports regarding the main city of Zawiya, which is just 50 kilometers west of the capital, has been seized by anti-regime demonstrators. How significant a move is this? Fryer: It is significant. Zawiya is on the road from the frontier to Tripoli and therefore Tripoli is becoming encircled, not including the sea border, but the noose is closing. There has been conflicting reports though. The protesters have taken control of central Zawiya, but unfortunately tanks are moving in that direction from Gaddafi supporters. Q: We know that Gaddafi is hold up in Tripoli. Do you think his increasing isolation inside the country and internationally will trigger a crackdown, which may be even more brutal than what we've seen up until now? Fryer: I fear it very much, which is why I hope it doesn't go on for too long because he seems to be completely without scruple when it comes to cracking down on his own people. And he's determined to stay there although it is highly unlikely that he will survive due to the strength of the uprising against him and as you say the increasing international isolation he is facing. But yet again we've seen over the last few hours' defiance from him and from his son Saif al-Islam. The latter extraordinarily declaring on the American network ABC news that there is no problem in Libya, everything is calm and all reports of clashes and killings were completely untrue; An extraordinary denial. Q: Speaking of the ABC interview you mentioned, what came out is that the regime is trying to get the message out that things are not as bad as is being reported by foreign media. What do you make of this move? Is it a desperate attempt to win back people's support? Fryer: Well I don't think there is any chance of him winning back international support this is clear by the fact that the vote of the UN Security Council on imposing sanctions on Libya was unanimous. What seems to have happened is the regime in Tripoli has totally changed its position vis-a-vis foreign media. At first they were keeping them (international media) out, there was no way of getting in and therefore foreign media were relying on Twitter reports and You Tube videos - citizen journalism of the local people. The Libyan government realized rather late that this was actually putting across a very negative impression of what was going on i.e. showing protesters making big advances. So what we've seen over the past couple of days is that Tripoli authorities have invited in the foreign media, American and European, and have taken them around parts of Tripoli that are indeed still in government hands and filled squares with a few hundred celebrating locals waving flags and portraits of Gaddafi claiming that everything is fine. The problem is we do have a situation in Tripoli where the city is divided [into two parts; there are areas] where there are protesters in control and other areas where there are quite a number of Libyans and of course foreign mercenaries who are standing by Gaddafi. Q: On 25th March, 2004 then British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced the start of a new relationship with Libya. We know that the UK has moved unilaterally to freeze assets of Gaddafi and his family members along with other multi-lateral efforts, but how does this declaration of a new relationship with Libya that the UK has been carrying on until the rise of these protests affect its position regarding these protests and Muammar Gaddafi now? Fryer: It has called for a complete change of attitude here in London. Of course, the previous relations were set up under a labor government of Tony Blair. With the change of government in England last May there has been within the coalition of conservative and democrats, a much more critical attitude towards Libya. That said it is really the events of the past few weeks, which has driven home the need to take a much stronger attitude. Now that most of the British citizens are out of Libya and safely out of the way the government has come out very clearly. Prime Minister David Cameron said just a few hours ago in unequivocal terms that Gaddafi must go, now! Q: Also though, a report coming out of the British Daily, the Sunday Times reported that former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown struck a lucrative arms deal with Gaddafi. Of late we've British foreign secretary William Hague calling for accountability as this case of the crack down on protesters has been referred to the International Criminal Court. Would that mean that the cabinet of Gordon Brown would come under investigation for making deals with someone they knew would probably use it (weapons) against popular uprisings? Fryer: I don't know if necessarily Gordon Brown would be part of the group of people referred in the case that probably will go indeed before the International Court assuming Gaddafi actually survives the next few days or weeks. What is certainly happening is a complete rethink about the morality of selling weapons particularly those sorts of weapons which can be used internally by oppressive governments on their own people. Of course, what we've seen which has been particularly shocking in Libya is that they have not only been using small arms and rubber bullets, tear gas etc - things we've seen in other parts of the region, but we have fairly well-substantiated of them using artillery on defenseless civilians, which is quite extraordinary and something we haven't seen for a very long time. Q: Just now, Prime Minister David Cameron was on a visit to the Middle East signing lucrative arms deals with regimes that we know are not democratic, that we know are repressive and oppressive - Where does this reassessment of morality with regards to selling arms come in line with this? Fryer: It's happening in the press, in universities, and in parliamentary debate. You are quite right that David Cameron was recently on a tour; he went to Egypt and to some Persian Gulf countries and did indeed take not just business men, but some who were indeed from arms manufacturers. This has always been, alas, part of the British export program. But as I say it is now coming under review. It was too late to stop that trip, but I think in future the government is going to find it will be in a very embarrassing position if it is seen to be selling arms to regimes that are undemocratic and oppressing their own people.

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