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Robin Cook: man with a mission

Amnesty's Richard Bunting

"Proposals not transparent enough"

Cook Defines Mission

The Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, is spending the weekend drawing up a new "mission statement" - which Labour has said will put human rights and the environment at the heart of foreign policy.

Campaigners are urging him to make good Labour's pre-election promises to pay more attention to foreign governments' records in deciding trade policy in particular, and not just to the earnings potential for British firms.

They're worried, because Britain earns almost as much from military exports as from financial services, and hundreds of thousands of jobs in Britain depend on them.

Labour promised in its manifesto that there would be more stringent controls on the export of weapons. It said there would be no arms sales to regimes which might use them for internal repression or international aggression. Measures would also be introduced to prevent UK companies from manufacturing, selling or procuring equipment used primarily for torture. There would be an greater "transparency and accountability" of decisions on export licences for arms.

An Amnesty International spokesman, Richard Bunting, told the BBC's Newsnight programme that these were steps in the right direction - but didn't go far enough. There should be public scrutiny of exports in advance of licences being granted.

The environmental group, Friends of the Earth, says Britain can take a lead at the reconvened Earth Summit next month in tackling problems such as climate change and the destruction of the world's forests.

Its spokesman, Charles Secrett, said smaller countries were crying out for one of the big industrialised nations to show the way forward.

Diana, Princess of Wales, 1961-1997

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