Tuesday, August 01, 2006

UK Airport curb on US 'bomb flights'

Airport curb on US 'bomb flights'

US military flights carrying bombs to Israel will no longer use any civilian airports in the UK
, the BBC has learnt.

The decision follows criticism of the use of Prestwick Airport near Glasgow to refuel flights suspected of carrying bombs to Israel.

It has emerged that in future only military airfields will be used.

The decision was reached after protests at the airport and discussions between various government departments, led by the Foreign Office.

US flights to Israel used RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk rather than Prestwick airport last weekend, prompting protests from about 30 peace campaigners at the military base.

'Not happy'

BBC News understands that Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett last week pressed for all US flights through the UK to be suspended while hostilities in Lebanon continued.

But her concerns were rejected by Downing Street.

The latest move means the planes will at least not pass through civilian bases any longer.

Mrs Beckett last week opened up a rare public rift with the Americans when she said she was "not happy" because it appeared the US planes at Prestwick had not followed correct procedures for transporting hazardous materials.

She raised the issue with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and threatened to make a formal protest if the reports proved to be true.

Her worries were seized by government critics as evidence that America was taking British support for granted.

But the White House dismissed Mrs Beckett's protest, saying the Department of Defense believed the "paperwork" had been in order.

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