brian | 19.11.2005 02:59
LONDON : Britain has bowed to US pressure to keep the name of a notorious arms trafficker, allegedly involved in supplying coalition forces in Iraq, off a list of those subject to planned United Nations sanctions, the Financial Times reported.
"London had originally supported moves to freeze Mr (Victor) Bout's assets, but appeared to have reversed its view under pressure from Washington," the financial daily said, citing evidence from several western diplomats.
In 2000, Peter Hain, then British foreign office minister responsible for Africa, described Victor Bout as "the chief sanctions-buster and... a merchant of death who owns air companies that ferry in arms" to rebel and government forces in several African conflicts, including Liberia, Angola and Sierra Leone.
In a March resolution, the UN Security Council agreed to freeze the assets of former Liberian president Charles Taylor, now in exile.
The UN sanctions committee also suggested freezing the assets of a number of people linked to the Liberian leader overthrown last year.
The paper quoted a senior western diplomat close to the UN negotiations as saying: "We are disgusted that Bout won't be on the list, even though he is the principal arms dealer in the region. If we want peace in that region (of West Africa), it seems evident that he should be on that list."
According to the anonymous diplomats cited in the FT report, the United States may be using an air freight company linked to Bout, a major trafficker in Russian arms, to help supply their forces in Iraq.