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06 Feb 14. Britain has dropped to fifth place from third as a global military spending power because of its shrinking defence budget and increased expenditure by Russia and Saudi Arabia, a respected report on the state of the world’s armed forces said yesterday. British military spending last year was $57bn dollars (£35bn), putting the country behind the United States, China, Russia and Saudi Arabia, according to the Military Balance 2014, by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London. David Cameron frequently claims that Britain is the world’s fourth largest defence spender, based on alternative estimates used by the Government, when he counters criticism of sweeping cuts to the Royal Navy, Army and RAF over the past four years. However, many analysts believe this to be meaningless, because it fails to take into account what Britain — compared with other nations — is able to buy with the money it spends.
“In this year’s book we say the UK is fifth [largest defence spender], and that is a product of the increase we have seen in Saudi Arabia over the last five years,” said Giri Rajendran, a research associate at IISS. “We think the Saudis are spending slightly more than the UK at the moment.” Mr Rajendran said that the sterling-to-dollar exchange rate was also a factor in this year’s figures, noting that if last week’s rates had been applied then British defence spending would be just ahead of Saudi Arabia’s, though still one rank lower than in 2012. Summing up the state of the world’s armed forces, IISS outlined a growing shift in the balance of military power from the West to the East, with rising defence budgets in Asia, particularly in China, and declining expenditure in the United States and across Europe. (Source: The Times)
05 Feb 14. The United States has warned France that French companies – which sent executives to Tehran this week – will be punished if they violate U.S. sanctions with Iran, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday. Separately, another U.S. official this week said Kerry had told French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius that the visit was “not helpful” and that it gave the wrong impression that the West could do business with Tehran as usual. Iran welcomed more than 100 executives from France’s biggest firms on Monday, the most senior French trade mission in years. That trip followed an interim agreement reached by Iran and six world powers in November under which Tehran agreed to limit parts of its nuclear work in return for the easing of some international sanctions. (Source: Reuters)
04 Feb 14. Rolls-Royce faces charges over radioactive material. Rolls-Royce, the engine and turbine maker, is facing multiple criminal charges for allegedly failing to manage the risk of employees being exposed to a radioactive substance. The criminal case is being brought by the UK’s Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency. It is expected to go to Crown Court, but the first hearing will be on Thursday at South Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court. The case relates to the alleged loss of Ytterbium 169 at a company plant in Derby. It is alleged that there was a loss of the material within the premises, which was discovered within a short period of time following a shift change, people close to the investigation said. Ytterbium 169 is used to check welding and joints. After the alleged incident, Rolls-Royce tightened its procedures, the company said. David Orr, an inspector at HSE, said: “Having concluded our joint investigation with the Environment Agency into the incident we have decided there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to bring criminal proceedings in this case.” On top of allege