Britain, France halt security exports to Bahrain & Libya

UK arms export licenses under review for MENA states

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Britain and France halted exports of some security equipment to Bahrain and Libya after violent clashes between security forces and anti-government protesters in both Arab states.

A day after announcing a review of British arms export licenses, the government had decided to revoke 44 licenses for Bahrain and eight for Libya, said minister for the Middle East and North Africa, Alistair Burt, on Friday.

Licenses for Yemen and other countries were under review amid a wave of popular uprisings spreading across the Middle East after the overthrow of regimes in Tunisia and Egypt.

Burt said licenses would not be issued "where we judge there is a clear risk that the proposed export might provoke or prolong regional or internal conflicts, or which might be used to facilitate internal repression."

He added that the government had "no evidence of British equipment being used in the unrest in Bahrain".

A British government source said the revoked licenses were mainly for riot control equipment, including tear gas and rubber bullets.

France also announced it had suspended exports of security equipment to Libya and Bahrain.

"Authorizations for the export of security equipment bound for Bahrain and Libya were suspended yesterday," foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said.

Britain's Foreign Office amended its travel advice to Bahrain late Friday, warning against all non-essential travel to the kingdom after security forces fired on protesters in the capital Manama, with reports of dozens wounded.

"In light of recent developments, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has changed its travel advice to advise against all but essential travel to the Kingdom of Bahrain," said a foreign ministry statement.

Britons travelling to Libya are being advised against all non-essential travel to Benghazi, Al-Baida, Derna, Ajdabiya, Al-Marj and Tobruk, all in the east of the North African state, said the ministry.

At least 41 people have lost their lives since demonstrations first erupted on Tuesday, according to a toll compiled by AFP from different local sources.

Benghazi and Derna have both been hit by violence.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he was alarmed that soldiers had fired on protesters in Bahrain and urged authorities to exercise restraint.

"I am alarmed by reports of soldiers firing on protestors in Bahrain," said a statement from Hague, who visited the Gulf state last week as part of a visit to the Middle East and North Africa.

"The circumstances of what happened are not yet clear, but I call on the Bahrain authorities to avoid violence and the use of excessive force and to exercise restraint."

Authorizations for the export of security equipment bound for Bahrain and Libya were suspended yesterday