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WIRED: Former GOP rep. Weldon working with US defense consulting firm brokering shady arms deals

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sabra Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-07-08 10:24 AM
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WIRED: Former GOP rep. Weldon working with US defense consulting firm brokering shady arms deals

http://www.wired.com/politics/security/news/2008/07/def...

U.S. Arms Dealer Tests Legal Bounds in Middle East Arms Bazaar

Former congressman Curt Weldon is helping broker deals between Russian and Ukranian weapons suppliers and the Iraqi and Libyan governments as part of his new job with a private American defense consulting firm, Wired.com has learned.

Weldon, who is currently being investigated by the FBI over alleged corruption during his time in office, visited Libya in March to discuss a possible military deal, according to a letter describing the trip from Weldon to Defense Solutions CEO Timothy Ringgold. In May, Weldon, together with Ringgold and another company representative, traveled to Moscow to discuss working with Russia's weapons-export agency on arms sales to the Middle East.

Both trips were part of the company's effort to tap into the growing -- and often legally murky -- market for selling weapons from former Eastern Bloc countries to the Middle East and Afghanistan.

The Russians want to sell weapons to Iraq directly, but "must go slow on Iraq because of political reasons" and want to work with an "intermediary" like Defense Solutions, CEO Ringgold subsequently wrote to colleagues. "They have not spoken with any American company that can offer the quid pro quo that we can or that has the connections in Russia that we have," he boasted.

A few years ago, an American company proposing to sell weapons to Libya might have triggered a congressional hearing. So, too, would have a proposal to conduct arms deals with Russia, which the United States has accused of selling high-tech weapons to Syria and Iran.

However, U.S. government efforts to rapidly equip countries like Afghanistan and Iraq -- which have largely Soviet-origin weapons -- have created legal ambiguities and loopholes in export controls that didn't exist in years past and given rise to a new class of arms trade middlemen. So, even though both Libya and the Russian arms export agency are on official U.S. blacklists, government officials and analysts involved in weapons sales say the rules have become unclear as the push to equip allies in the global war on terror has blazed new but uncertain legal ground.
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