July 13, 2009 / 10:43 AM / 10 years ago

UK cuts some arms sales to Israel after Gaza war

* Five arms export licenses revoked

* UK denies move constitutes embargo

(Adds new British comment)

By Dan Williams

JERUSALEM, July 13 (Reuters) - Britain has scrapped the sale of some military components to Israel as part of an export review prompted by the war in the Gaza Strip, officials said on Monday.

Of 182 arms-export licenses, five were revoked, an Israeli official said. All involved equipment for the Saar 4.5 class Corvette, a naval vessel that took part in the December-January offensive in which more than 1,400 Palestinians were killed.

The British embassy in Tel Aviv confirmed the revocation of a "small number" of export licenses but said this did not constitute an embargo on Israel. "There are no security agreements between the UK and Israel," an embassy spokeswoman said. "UK policy remains to assess all export licences to Israel against the consolidated E.U. and national arms export licensing criteria."

She noted that Britain had also revoked some export licenses to Russia and Georgia following their border war last year.

Israel has weathered international censure over the civilian toll of the Gaza war, arguing that Palestinians provoked the violence by firing rockets across the border. Thirteen Israelis were killed during the 22 days of fighting.

Israel’s Defence Ministry had no immediate comment on the British decision. Interviewed on Israel Radio, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman brushed it off.

"Israel has known many cases of embargo in the past," he said. "We always knew how to get by, and there is no need to get excited about this."

British Foreign Minister David Miliband announced the review in April after some legislators pressed for an arms embargo on both Israel and the Hamas Islamists ruling Gaza.

British exports of sensitive products that are for military use or that can have both civilian or military applications need a licence. Britain says it will not grant a licence if there is a clear risk of exports being used either for internal repression or for external aggression. (Editing by Richard Balmforth)

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