ANTI-WAR protests hit the capital yesterday, as the world’s largest fully integrated defence and security exhibition got underway. <br /><br />Controversy has hit the event particularly hard this year, as it sees the largest contingent of Libyan arms dealers ever to visit the UK. <br /><br />The show comes soon after the release of the Lockerbie bomber, which sparked an international furore, and the UK’s recent move to back IRA victims suing Libya for supplying arms to the terrorist group.<br /><br />The controversial event, formally named the Defence Systems & Equipment International (DSEi) 2009 Expo, brings together senior international trade and military experts from across the entire supply chain.<br /><br /> Protests took place at Aldgate tube station, Westminster and Docklands. There were no arrests. <br /><br />The UK Trade and Investment’s Defence and Security Organisation invited 53 countries to attend the biannual event at the ExCel centre.<br /><br />Tight security surrounds the conference, which will see major global defence groups unveiling new products. <br /><br />The show includes 1,000 exhibitors and 25,000 arms dealers in a four-day fair organised by Clarion Events. <br /><br />DSEi spokesman Paul Beaver said the event would help boost the UK economy as it struggles to come out of a downturn and that it would ensure the armed forces have access to the best equipment possible. <br /><br />“The UK is at war and we need to make sure our soldiers are protected,” he said.<br /><br />“In this country we probably have the toughest defence export regulations in the world,” he added. <br /><br />Organisers say exhibitors are banned from displaying landmines or instruments of torture and will be barred from the event if they do.<br /><br />British defence giant BAE Systems unveiled a new system to help commercial vessels fend off pirates, including an improved radar system and a laser to dazzle and temporarily disable potential attackers.<br /><br />The technical wares on offer include everything from hi-tech thermal imaging to three full-scale naval vessels -- two from Britain’s Royal Navy and one from the Dutch Navy -- berthed on the waterway at Docklands.