Saudi tank deal to face vote Friday in German parliament

Arab World Materials 8 July 2011 04:56 (UTC +04:00)

German parliamentarians are being asked to vote Friday on a controversial sale of 200 Leopard 2 German battle tanks to Saudi Arabia, although Berlin refuses to confirm or deny that the deal is even under discussion.

Parties loyal to Chancellor Angela Merkel are expected to use their majority to reject the resolution placed on the agenda Thursday by the opposition Left Party. Friday is the last day the Bundestag parliament sits before a summer break, dpa reported.

Government sources say Merkel's inner cabinet, the national security council, cleared the proposed sale last week.

The Left Party resolution is calling on the government to revoke the clearance.

On Wednesday, a junior minister was grilled for an hour in the Bundestag and defended the principle of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, though he refused to confirm or deny what he called the "alleged" sale of tanks.

Opposition parties claim the sale breaches guidelines adopted in 2000 and prohibiting arms sales in wartime to non-allies.

"There are grounds to suspect these arms will be employed for internal repression in Saudi Arabia," said the Left motion.

Separately, the Green Party filed a police complaint against the tank-making company, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW), alleging it was conducting unauthorized arms exports.

Green officials explained they hoped this move would force the government to break cover and announce that the sale had been authorized by Berlin.

Gulf news reports say the Saudi monarchy requested the 60-ton tanks to counter a possible Iranian threat. Berlin government sources said this was the main reason Germany agreed to the sale.

The strategic debate in the inner cabinet had to remain secret, officials contended.

Commercial sources estimate the sale may be worth 1.7 billion euros (2.4 billion dollars). German arms exports have to be made public annually in a detailed report to parliament. The 2010 report is due out shortly.

A news television channel, N24, said it commissioned a poll that found 94 per cent of Germans opposed arms sales to governments that might use such arms against their own populations.