“We shouldn’t be allowing bombs through our airports to fan this horrendous conflict. This underlines the monumental hypocrisy of the US and Britain. We have been preaching to Iran about arming Hezbollah fighters. And all the while we have been arming the Israelis…”
The Guardian (Thursday July 27)
The chorus of discontent is growing over the US use of British airports as staging posts for transporting weapons to Israel.
Aviation chiefs are investigating whether two chartered flights carrying bunker-busting bombs were properly authorised to stopover at Glasgow Prestwick.
Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett has insisted she is “not happy” and will lodge a formal complaint if the hazardous material protocol failure is proved – raising speculation of a rift in the Transatlantic ‘special relationship’. She has already contacted counterpart Condoleezza Rice to voice her displeasure, while the White House has sought to play the issue down as a “paperwork question”.
But calls for a blanket ban on the US using UK territory when transporting arms to Israel were increasing in volume, with critics blasting the Government’s “monumental hypocrisy” in asking Hezbollah to give up their weapons.
The embarrassing controversy is threatening to overshadow Tony Blair’s arrival in Washington for talks with President George Bush concerning the deteriorating situation in Lebanon.
Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Michael Moore has written to Mrs Beckett requesting an “urgent review” of US flights. “In light of Israel’s disproportionate military attacks against civilians and the civilian infrastructure in Lebanon and Gaza, in contravention of international law, the Foreign Secretary is right to be angered that the US is supplying Israel with high tech weaponry via the UK,” he said.
A former British diplomat, who quit as ambassador to Uzbekistan after alleging human rights abuses, said the UK was losing “all credibility with the Arab world”. Craig Murray said: “Whether procedures were followed properly is not the issue. We shouldn’t be allowing bombs through our airports to fan this horrendous conflict. This underlines the monumental hypocrisy of the US and Britain. We have been preaching to Iran about arming Hezbollah fighters. And all the while we have been arming the Israelis, while resisting calls for an immediate ceasefire.”
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which is responsible for UK policing of international rules governing hazardous material, said that it expected to decide by the end of the day whether there had been a breach.
Flights such as that by the two chartered Airbus A310 cargo planes – which were carrying GBU28 laser-guided bombs – usually require “specific exemptions” from hazardous material rules, according to a spokesman. However, the CAA said that it would not be deciding the issue immediately, and only “may” reach a conclusion – when Mr Blair’s visit gets under way.
It is understood that any formal complaint by Britain would be pursued through “diplomatic channels” – either in a letter from Mrs Beckett to Ms Rice or with representations from the UK’s ambassador.
Also, for a look at the wider geo-political implications of the war see Washington risks a wider conflict from the BBC