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

Publisher Name: 
Western Mail

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."
AMP Section Name:War & Disaster Profiteering
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