UK Gives 400 Tanks To Jordan
By David Hencke
Westminster Correspondent
The Guardian - UK

A row broke out last night over a gift from Britain to Jordan's armed forces of more than 400 surplus Challenger tanks as Britain and the US prepare for a possible war against its neighbour, Iraq.
Senior backbench Labour MPs and the Liberal Democrat frontbench spokesman Menzies Campbell were last night demanding why Geoff Hoon, the defence secretary, had sneaked the deal through parliament during the recess.
They also said they were not satisfied that Jordan could guarantee that the secret of the tanks' reinforced armour would not leak across the border to Saddam Hussein. Jordan was named in the Scott report on arms sales to Iraq as a country where sensitive technology leaked to Iraq.
The gift has emerged in an obscure memorandum deposited in the Commons library by the Ministry of Defence. In it, ministers apologise for not giving parliament a chance to debate what is described as an "unusual gift" of tanks with a book value of £385,000 each. The tanks were last used in action during the Gulf war to invade Iraq.
According to the document, a deal was reached two years ago to present 288 tanks and 112 support vehicles to back up the foreign policy of King Abdullah, the new king of Jordan. Just before the parliamentary recess, Mr Hoon decided to give Jordan another 114 main battle tanks and 19 training tanks.
The document says: "In the interests of making the most efficient use of public funds, it was particularly desirable for parliamentary clearance to be achieved by the middle of October. Early clearance would help to maximise workshop efficiency by allowing transition, without a break, to the preparation of the proposed package of Challenger Is after the preparation of the first batch of 288 tanks was completed in the third week of October.
It adds: "The department apologises that it did not prove possible to offer MPs 14 sitting days' notice."
Last night Mr Campbell said: "This is a particularly weak explanation for not telling parliament. I shall be pressing for an explanation from the Foreign Ofice of the impact of these extra tanks in the present Middle East situation."
Ann Clwyd, Labour MP for Cynon Valley and a campaigner for more openness on defence orders, said: "This is outrageous. Here we have a case where parliament was supposed to be consulted on this gift and they provide lame excuses why they didn't."
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