Defence and security expo draws rebels

ANTI-WAR protests hit the capital yesterday, as the world&rsquo;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&rsquo;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 &amp; Equipment International (DSEi) 2009 Expo, brings together senior international trade and military experts from across the entire supply chain.<br /><br />&nbsp;Protests took place at Aldgate tube station, Westminster and Docklands. There were no arrests. <br /><br />The UK Trade and Investment&rsquo;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 />&ldquo;The UK is at war and we need to make sure our soldiers are protected,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />&ldquo;In this country we probably have the toughest defence export regulations in the world,&rdquo; 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&rsquo;s Royal Navy and one from the Dutch Navy -- berthed on the waterway at Docklands.