Rise in arms sales to Middle East, East Asia: institute

Rise in arms sales to Middle East, East Asia: institute Stockholm - Arms sales to the Middle East and East Asia have surged in recent years, according to a Swedish-based peace research institute report on Monday. World arms sales increased 21 per cent in the period 2004-2008, compared to 1999-2003, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said.

Arms sales to the Middle East rose 38 per cent in 2004-2008 compared with the previous five year period.

The United States accounted for 31 per cent of global arms exports 2004-2008, Russia was second on 25 per cent, and Germany third on 10 per cent. France had an
8-per-cent share of global arms sales while Britain had 4 per cent, SIPRI said.

The database information, which does not include transfers of small arms, is based on public sources ranging from national and regional newspapers to specialized international journals, SIPRI researcher Pieter Wezeman told German Press Agency dpa.

The five-year cycle was used to even out fluctuations caused by a big order during any specific year.

China and India remained the world's largest arms importers 1999-2003 and 2004-2008. Russia was their main supplier.

More than a third of US exports went to the Middle East, while 40 per cent of French exports went to the region.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) was the world's third largest importer of arms 2004-2008 on 6 per cent, jumping from 16th place in the 1999-2003 period.

"The UAE has been an important importer of weapons in the past five years," Wezeman told dpa. "They have received a considerable number of advanced combat aircraft from both France and the United States."

"They could also buy those weapons because the oil prices were quite high in the first few years of this decade," he added.

"On the one hand they have the means to buy this equipment, on the other hand they also appear to have a certain threat perception which they believe they can counter with buying advanced military equipment," Wezeman explained.

The Middle East accounted for 18 per cent of arms transfers 2003-2008.

Most countries in the region do not make public their reasonfor arms procurement but SIPRI believed Iran was the UAE's main security concern. Iran accounted for 5 per cent of the region's arms imports.

The impact of the financial crisis on arms purchases was also yet to be determined, according to other SIPRI researchers including programme head Paul Holtom who noted that Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia and Morocco may be considering postponing deals.(dpa)