USA: The USA maintained its dominance in the international arms market last year, especially in sales to developing nations, according to a new Congressional report. The USA was the leader in total worldwide sales, with about US$13.3 billion (up from US$12.1 billion in 2001), or 45.5 per cent of global conventional weapons deals. Of that, US$8.6 billion was to developing nations — amounting to almost half of all conventional arms deals concluded with developing nations last year. Russia came second in sales to the developing world last year with US$5 billion, followed by France with US$1 billion.
* * *JAPAN: A joint survey by the Fuji News Network and Japanese Self-Defence Force (SDF). found that only 10 per cent of the population support sending Japanese troops to Iraq while the current instability continues. An overwhelming majority — 89 per cent — said they were dissatisfied with the government's explanation of why it promised to dispatch members of the Self- Defence Force (SDF). In July, the ruling coalition rammed a controversial Bill through parliament to deploy troops in a country where fighting continues — contrary to Japan's post-war constitution which bans the use of force to settle international disputes. The Japanese Government toned down an earlier pledge to send troops by the end of the year, following the deaths of Italian troops in mid-November. The deaths of two Japanese diplomats last week may further strengthen opposition to sending the troops. * * *BRITAIN: The mother of a British man shot in the head by Israeli troops accused the Sharon Government of treating her with "contempt" after it sent her a cheque that bounced. The Israeli Ambassador in London wrote to relatives of peace activist Tom Hurndall, who is in a coma, enclosing a cheque towards flying him home. When Tom's mother Jocelyn Hurndall tried to pay it into her account, her bank said that the cheque had been returned as there were not enough funds in the Israeli Government's account. Mr Hurndall had been working with peace campaigners in the town of Rafah when he was shot as he tried to help children out of the path of an Israeli tank. He suffered severe brain damage and is not expected to recover. The Israeli Embassy in London insisted that the cheque had been cashed, although the family's bank continues to deny this. * * *INDIA: India and Pakistan announced a cease-fire along the Line of Control between the countries in Kashmir. The cease-fire is the first formal cessation of hostilities since insurgency erupted in the long-disputed region in 1989. Officials from both sides expressed hope that the cease-fire would help ease military tensions. The agreement was preceded in recent months by confidence-building measures such as some cross-border transport links and diplomatic exchanges.