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BAHRAIN, LIBYA: Britain revokes arms exports, fearing use against protesters

February 18, 2011 | 12:03 pm

Britain's Foreign Office announced Friday that certain arms export authorizations for Bahrain and Libya were being revoked out of concern the weapons could be used to suppress internal unrest.

The government said it was still reviewing export licenses for Yemen, where violent crackdowns also have been reported against peaceful demonstrators demanding an end to autocratic rule.

The statement didn't identify which arms or weapons components wouldn't be shipped to the Mideast countries caught up in a regionwide outbreak of unrest and demands for reform. But the statement said the exports would be halted if officials determined they could be used against those demonstrating peacefully against the entrenched leaderships.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said in announcing review of the export licenses Thursday that there was "no evidence" that British materiel had been used to date against demonstrators in the restive nations.

Britain had authorized the shipments of tear gas cartridges and other riot-control equipment over the last nine months, Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said.

Bahraini security forces lobbed tear gas grenades and fired live ammunition and rubber bullets on Friday to drive back an approaching march of demonstrators at Manama's Pearl Square. The traffic roundabout had become the focal point of the mainly Shiite Muslim protest against the long-reigning Sunni Muslim royal family in power in the tiny Persian Gulf kingdom.

Government troops in Libya also have attacked protesters, leaving at least two dozen dead over the last two days, with unconfirmed reports of as many as 50 killed.

-- Carol J. Williams

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