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UK: Weapons firm's role in St Athan academy condemned

by Martin ShiptonWestern Mail
November 9th, 2007

Campaigners have condemned the Assembly Government for backing a huge military training project, despite the involvement of a weapons company previously linked to cluster bombs.

The St Athan Defence Academy is due to create 5,000 jobs in the Vale of Glamorgan by 2013.

But an anti-military group called the Cluster Munition Coalition says that one of the major companies involved in the academy, Raytheon, has been involved in manufacturing devices that carry cluster munitions.

Raytheon, a leading American arms firm, insists it no longer produces weapons capable of carrying cluster bombs. But campaigners say they remain concerned.

Anne Greagsby, co-ordinator of the campaign to stop the St Athan academy from being built, said, "In 2005 a European Parliament resolution was introduced to ban investments in companies, such as Raytheon, that have produced cluster munitions. In response to this, Norway and Belgium have already endorsed this call. Liverpool City Council has also recently adopted a similar position.

"Yet the Welsh government has ignored all of these concerns, and instead launched a high profile development project with Raytheon.

"Raytheon is a central member of the Metrix Consortium that was awarded the St Athan Defence Training Academy contract in January 2007. The St Athan Defence Academy has been supported by all of the main political parties in Wales and sold to the public on the basis of alleged benefits to the economy.

"The involvement in the project of the world's largest arms companies has so far not received any attention."

Ms Greagsby added, "Given the evident public concern over cluster bombs and the arms trade more generally, I am sure that most people would be shocked to hear that the Assembly has laid a welcome mat for such companies, especially after other governments have turned their backs on them."

In 2005, the Advisory Council on Ethics for the Norwegian Government Pension Fund excluded Raytheon from the fund's investment portfolio, along with other manufacturers associated with cluster munitions. In 2007, Belgium passed a law banning all investments in any companies still producing cluster munitions.

Raytheon is still producing the AGM154 Joint Standoff Weapon, which according to its website,"is a family of low-cost, highly lethal weapons that can engage a wide spectrum of targets - from soft targets to hardened point targets - over a range of threat environments by using highly integrated Global Positioning System and Inertial Measurement System guidance."

Ms Greagsby said, "It has been reported that a Raytheon device hit the Shu'ale market in Baghdad in 2003, killing at least 62 civilians, and that a Raytheon device hit Qana in Lebanon in 2006, killing at least 28 civilians, including 16 children."

Veteran former Labour MP Tony Benn has signed a petition opposing plans to build the 14bn defence training academy at RAF St Athan.

The project has also been criticised by CND Cymru.

A spokesman for Raytheon said, "Raytheon does not manufacture cluster bombs or any associated delivery vehicles. Any assertion to the contrary is based on dated information that is no longer valid or correct.

"To clarify, Raytheon has never manufactured cluster bombs, but in the past we have been associated with their manufacture because of our contract to produce a missile that can carry different types of munition payloads, determined by the customer. One configuration allowed it to carry cluster bomb payloads, which were not produced by Raytheon.

"But in any case, Raytheon has completed its contracted production run for this particular missile, and we have no plans to resume production. Furthermore, Raytheon has no other products in development that are designed to dispense cluster submunitions."


First Minister Rhodri Morgan said, "The development at St Athan is vital if our armed forces are to have the best possible training to equip them to deal with any threat to the safety and security of this country and its people.

"The training activities at St Athan are related to engineering and IT skills, which are also useful in civilian life as well.

"Under the Metrix consortium's proposals, the army, navy and air force will get better training to protect the UK from enemies, both now and in the future.

"Raytheon is one of the partners in the consortium. They have made it clear to the Welsh Assembly Government that they do not manufacture cluster bombs or any missiles capable of delivering the weapons, and they have no plans to do so in future Any claim to the contrary is wrong and based on old information.
"The UK government is committed to banning the production, stockpiling and use of cluster bombs, and has signed a joint declaration with 45 other countries to achieve this aim."




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