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UK's gift to Iran: Body armor to counter Afghan drug smuggling

London, March 16, IRNA-The British government has made an exception to its national arms embargo against Iran to allow the donation of armored vests and body armor plates to help counter drugs smuggling from Afghanistan.

Foreign Office Minister Chris Mullin said that the gift, aimed to add an element of protection to the Iranian Anti-Narcotics Police (ANP), was made after consultation with Britain's Ministry of Defense.

"We are satisfied that these goods would only be used for anti-narcotics operations and are therefore prepared to make an exception to the UK national embargo announced in 1993, as amended in 1998," he said in a written statement to parliament published Wednesday.

Mullin said the government was "fully committed to implementing the UK embargo on Iran," which includes dual-use equipment and dates back to when it was imposed unevenly during the 1980-88 imposed Iraq war.

"However, we are, in limited circumstances, prepared to make exceptions where denying an export or a gift would be contrary to the intention of the embargo," he told MPs.

"As the UK has been active in encouraging and assisting Iran with combating the smuggling of drugs from Afghanistan, I am confident that granting this exception is fully consistent with this responsible approach of supporting the ANP whilst respecting the aims of the embargo," the Foreign Office minister said.

During the past two decades, the UK has made several exceptions to its embargo, which must be notified to parliament, to supply equipment to help Iran combat armed drug traffickers from Afghanistan, including the sale of night-vision goggles.

Last year, an exemption was also made to allow the sale of pipeline parts for the oil and gas industries that were originally designed and used for military aircraft engines.

Other exceptions have included exception to allow the export of of a synchros instrumentation system to power Fokker 100 aircraft in 2003 and industrial gas turbine parts with components that normally come under the scope of the embargo.

Unlike the overwhelming majority of the UK's sanctions regimes are imposed multilaterally by the UN, EU or OSCE, Iran remains singled out unilaterally by Britain, when emergency powers were originally used.

The embargo was later clarified in ministerial statements of 1993 and 1998 following the Scott Report into the arms-for-Iraq scandal during the imposed war that extended up to the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein's regime.

In March 2003, a slight relaxation was made when the British government announced it was scrapping its mandatory scrutiny of export licenses under the so-called Iran Working Group in order to "reduce delays for UK exporters." The embargo is expected to be an issue in the ongoing negotiations led by Britain, France, and Germany in reaching long-term arrangements on Iran's nuclear program.

... Payvand News - 3/16/05 ... --

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