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British army criticised for cosying up to Middle East dictatorships

THE British army came under fire from human rights activists today who are accusing it of cosying up to dictators in Egypt and Oman.

Hundreds of troops are currently deployed to both countries on military exercises despite evidence that their leaders have tortured and even executed opponents.

More than 300 personnel, some armed with tanks and helicopters, are now in Oman to take part in Exercise Khanjar, which runs from March 5-19 out of a new British base in the south of the country.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) told the Morning Star that eight different units are involved.

The Gulf country has been ruled by the same leader, Sultan Qaboos, for nearly half a century.

Exiled rights activist Khalfan al-Badwawi told the Star: “Britain supports the tyrant in Muscat who oppresses the Omani people and puts them in a constant state of fear.

“The ongoing British military exercises in Oman is a visible sign of the imperialist mentality that still resonates within the British Establishment.”

Last week the army also started Exercise Ahmose, a month-long deployment to Egypt, where about 165 British soldiers are training side by side with local forces.

Drills include urban warfare and live firing, with squaddies from the Rifles and the Royal Anglian Regiment taking part.

Britain’s defence attache to Egypt Colonel Ed Sandry hailed it as a “a brilliant opportunity.”

But foreign policy expert Mark Curtis told the Morning Star: “The UK is lending international legitimacy to a regime which came to power killing hundreds, holds 60,000 political prisoners and is increasingly repressive of the media and civil society.

“British foreign policy needs a transformation towards supporting the rights of people, not the regimes that crush them.”

At least 1,451 people, including 10 juveniles, have been sentenced to death since Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi came to power in 2014, according to research by rights group Reprieve.

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