France stops arms sales to Egypt

France's President Nicolas Sarkozy (L) greets Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak as he arrives at the Elysee Palace in Paris, August 30, 2010

France has decided to stop selling arms to Egypt.

France said on Saturday it had suspended sales of arms and riot police equipment to Egypt as fresh protests took hold of Paris pressing for veteran leader Hosni Mubarak to step down.The decision was taken by the prime minister’s office at an extraordinary meeting on January 27, and was conveyed to those concerned the following day, an aide to Prime Minister Francois Fillon told AFP.

With regard to equipment used to maintain public order, “export permits for explosive materiel, mostly tear gas grenades, are the responsibility of customs. These were suspended on January 25,” the aide said.

Egypt has been rocked by a popular uprising since January 25 seeking to topple Mubarak, in power for nearly 30 years.

The French government was recently challenged by the Socialist opposition as to why it had continued to allow exports of such products to Tunisia after the uprising which eventually forced long-time president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to flee.

Fillon acknowledged that France had authorised the exports to Tunisia in November last year and January, until just before the departure of Ben Ali, but said the exports had not taken place.

In December and January, there had been “no deliveries of war materiel” to the Tunisian authorities,” Fillon said, insisting that they needed the rubber stamp of a committee answerable to the prime minister.

The permits had been granted by the defence, interior and foreign ministries, “but none of them resulted in exports,” he said.

Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie caused a storm last month when she suggested France could train Tunisian police to maintain order better, amid reports that they had shot dead dozens of unarmed protesters.

Meanwhile at least 2,000 people rallied in Paris and elsewhere in France demanding Mubarak to quit immediately and protesting against foreign meddling in Egyptian politics.

Organisers of the Paris rally said that demonstration alone had attracted 4,000: police put the figure at 1,700.

Smaller demonstrations took place in Strasbourg in the east and Grenoble in the southeast.

This about turn from France won’t have that much of an affect especially since the Egyptian army , Police and security services mostly get 90% of their equipment from the U.S. through the annual $1.2 billion in aid it gives.

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