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Monday, August 28, 2006

UK: We didn't send Iran equipment

British-made equipment captured by the IDF this month in southern Lebanon was not part of a consignment of high technology surveillance gear shipped by the UK to Iran under a UN administered drug interdiction program, British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett reported.

Writing in response to a query from Conservative Party shadow foreign secretary William Hague, Beckett stated that an investigation by the British Foreign Office and Department of Trade and Industry revealed the two items captured in a Hizbullah bunker were not linked to Iran.

"One item was a remote video camera manufactured in the UK, which did not require an export license and is widely available through normal commercial outlets," Beckett wrote on August 27, while the other was a "static thermal imaging system that was exported under an export license to Lebanon for use at a private residence." The manufacturer of the camera verified that it would have been used in a "fixed installation" and was "not suitable for hand-held operation." No British-made night vision goggles were captured by the IDF, she said.

On August 21 Hague wrote Beckett over what he described as "disturbing reports" published in The Times that Israel had seized "British-made military equipment" from Hizbullah. Hague asked if she could confirm "that the equipment in question comprises British night-vision goggles that were supplied to Iran" under a 2003 deal brokered by the UN's Office on Drugs and Crime to interdict heroin shipments through Iran from Afghanistan.

Hague also asked Beckett to report on government safeguards to "prevent Iran's diversion of such equipment to military purposes other than the drugs-combating role envisaged." British policy is to ban the export of "any equipment where there is knowledge or reason to suspect that it will go to a military end-user or be used for military purposes," Beckett said.

Exceptions to this rule are made "with the knowledge of Parliament" where "denying an export or gift would be against the spirit of the embargo." The export of 250 sets of night vision goggles in 2003 and 50 sets of body armor in 2005 were approved for use in police work and the British government was "satisfied that the goods would only be used for the end-use stated, and that the risk of diversion was minimal." No other exceptions to the arms embargo have been made since 2005, Beckett noted.
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