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Slovakia sells most arms to Poland, Cyprus and Algeria

OF ALL its foreign military customers in 2004, Slovakia exported the most weapons and military supplies to Poland, Cyprus and Algeria, according to official data for that year published by the Economy Ministry.

Slovakia sold Poland weapons worth Sk461 million, the daily SME wrote.

It is the first time the country has released such detailed data on its arms sales. Slovakia has in the past been suspected of being a conduit in the illegal arms trade, a problem that the Slovak Intelligence Service has warned of regularly in its annual reports.

Foreign policy analyst Ivo Samson said it was logical that Poland and Algeria were at the top of the list, but said he was surprised to find Cyprus as such an important export destination.

Amnesty International asked the Economy Ministry to explain why it had granted a license for exporting military material to China in 2004 even though the United Nations had imposed an embargo on goods of this kind in 1989, the SITA news wire wrote.

AI Slovakia spokesperson Ingrid Králova said AI was worried by several pieces of information in the Economy Ministry's report. For example, since the report does not indicate what kind of military material was exported in 2004, licenses granted to firms exporting to India, Algeria, Iraq and Israel may be cause for concern.

Weapons can be misused in human rights violations committed by foreign state security forces, AI said.

AI also criticized the fact that the report does not clearly identify exports reported in the UN registry, for example, which shows that Slovakia exported thousands of 122mm rockets to Uganda used for destroying tanks and armoured vehicles.

"AI considers this sale irresponsible," Králova said.

She explained that Uganda was generally known to be supporting armed rebels in the bloody conflict in the Republic of Congo, and had misused its weapons supplies on several occasions.

According to the UN registry, in 2004 Slovakia also exported Kh-29 and Kh-25 rockets to Algeria. Given the long-running conflict in Algeria, as well as the murders and civilian kidnappings that have been reported, the sale of weapons to Algeria is extremely controversial, AI said.

Compiled by Beata Balogová from press reports
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