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Wednesday, February 23, 2011
British, European and US weapons manufacturers are participating in the region's largest arms bazaar, hoping for a share in the world's fastest-growing arms market.
By Praveen Swami, Diplomatic Editor
4:26PM GMT 22 Feb 2011
More than 80 British firms are represented at the ongoing International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) in Abu Dhabi, including BAE, Thales UK and Motorola UK. The firms are offering everything from weapons and communications equipment to parachutes and uniforms.
Lockheed Martin and L-3 communications from the US, France's Renault and Germany's Rhinemetall AG are among other major defence multinationals represented at IDEX.
Now in its 10th year, IDEA has attracted over 1,000 exhibitors this year, most of them from the United States, Britain, France and Germany. European governments have blocked sales of law enforcement equipment, like tear gas grenades, to some countries, but there are few restrictions on the sale of military equipment.
Facing budget cuts at home, western arms firms are desperate for a share of the lucrative Middle East market. "The post-financial crisis reality," said Herve Guillou, president of Cassidian Systems, a subsidiary of European aviation defence group EADS, "is that today it is clearly the Middle East that is seeing the biggest growth." Iran's growing military power has pushed Gulf states into their largest-ever military build up, making purchases worth £76 billion from the US alone in 2010. The largest acquisitions were made by Saudi Arabia, which is spending £41 billion on F-15 fighter jets and upgrades for its naval fleet.
The six Gulf Cooperation Council countries - Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait - along with Jordan will spend another £41 billion on defence in 2011, according to Frost and Sullivan, a research firm.
Libya and Egypt are among the states which have representatives at IDEX. Global Industrial and Defence Solutions, a Pakistani exhibitor, lists Libya as being among the "key customers of our products." Renault also issued a press release before the exhibition, saying it had contracted to supply military trucks to Egypt. Libya's al-Musallah magazine, which covers arms-trade related issues in the country, is also among the exhibitors.
...And here is how these weapons are used against civilians asking for basic human rights: