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Lawyers for a Muslim group are asking a London court to change Britain's Middle East policy, charging the Blair government has "aided and abetted" violations of international law through its support of Israel.
The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) presented arguments on Tuesday, asking for legal standing to bring a lawsuit against the Civil Aviation Authority, Foreign Office and Defense Minister Des Browne for permitting US arms to be transshipped through Britain to Israel.
While legal analysts predict it is unlikely the IHRC will prevail in forcing a court-ordered change of the government's foreign policy, the lawsuit comes amid a sharp decline in Prime Minister Tony Blair's political fortunes. An ICM poll published in The Guardian on Tuesday reports that Blair's Labor Party has fallen to its lowest level of support since 1987, polling only 31 percent, compared to the Conservative party's 40% and the Liberal Democrats 22%.
The government's Middle East policy and response to terrorism has not gone over well with voters, with 72% saying Blair's policies had made the UK a terrorist target, while only 1% said his policies had made Britain safer.
Last month's revelation that the Pentagon did not comply with civil safety regulations in its handling of munitions transshipped through Glasgow's Prestwick Airport embarrassed Blair at the start of his Washington summit with US President George W. Bush, and gave ammunition to his opponents inside Labor Party and in the political opposition.
On July 26, Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett told British television she was "not happy about it" and said she would raise the safety issue with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Subsequent US arms shipments were rerouted from Prestwick to RAF Mildenhall air base in Suffolk.
The IHRC stated its lawsuit seeks to prevent the Blair government from its "continued acts of aiding and abetting grave and serious violations of international humanitarian law and crimes against the Geneva Conventions that are continuing in the Republic of Lebanon." The London-based Muslim pressure group said it brought the suit after it had received "many complaints... from British citizens whose family members are in Lebanon and facing grave danger as well as acts of terror."
The British government has "continued to ignore the anger and the will of the British public and has given the impression that it is a willing participant in the war crimes that have taken place in the Republic of Lebanon," it charged.
The IHRC hopes to "force the relevant public authorities to respect the law," chairman Massoud Shadjareh said.
"Rather than preventing the shipments of military hardware, ammunition and munitions from the US to the State of Israel, the UK government has ignored its own policy and guidelines on the export of such materials to areas where they are likely to prolong an already bloody conflict," Shadjareh said.
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