London probes how UK-made goggles got to Hizbullah
Leaders demand investigation into "disturbing reports" of British night-vision equipment seized by Israel.
By GEORGE CONGER, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
August 22, 2006 03:26
1 minute read.
night vision goggles 88.
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Opposition leaders in the UK are demanding an investigation into military equipment sales to Iran following the discovery of British-made night-vision goggles in a captured Hizbullah bunker in southern Lebanon.
In an August 21 letter to Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, shadow foreign secretary William Hague wrote there had been "disturbing reports" published in The Times that Israel had seized "British-made military equipment" from Hizbullah. Hague asked whether the government could confirm "that the equipment in question comprises British night-vision goggles that were supplied to Iran."
In 2003, Britain supplied the Iranian Anti-Narcotics Police with 250 night-vision systems and last year provided 50 suits of body armor under a program administered by the United Nation's Office on Drugs and Crime to interdict heroin and opium shipments through Iran from Afghanistan.
Hague asked the foreign secretary to "confirm whether any other shipments of British military equipment to Iran have taken place" and to investigate the possible diversion of military hardware by Iran to its allies in their war against Israel.
"Given Iran's well-known role in supplying Hizbullah with military support," Hague asked, "what steps were taken at the time to prevent Iran's diversion of such equipment to military purposes other than the drugs-combating role envisaged?"
A Foreign Office spokesman told The Jerusalem Post Britain initiated the investigation on Friday after learning of the capture and had requested Israel provide a description of the captured equipment to assist the investigation into its origins.
A spokesman for the Department of Trade and Industry, which oversees the export licensing of military hardware, told the Post there was "no indication that the equipment found is in any way linked to the equipment sold to Iran as part of the UN program." It was "taking this matter very seriously," but "at the moment it is not clear whether the equipment was made or exported from the UK. We are seeking further details to confirm this," he said.
If Iran had diverted the night-vision goggles to Hizbullah, "it will have consequences for any future military exports to Iran" shadow defense minister Liam Fox said. "It points the finger all the more strongly at Iranian involvement in destabilizing the Middle East."