Germany's parliament was Friday set to debate an allegedly secret sale of 200 Leopard 2 battle tanks to Saudi Arabia, but Chancellor Angela Merkel's top legislative aide insisted the deal was still years awaym, DPA reported.
The three opposition parties in the Bundestag have put motions on Friday's agenda condemning the reported clearance for the sale last week by Merkel's inner cabinet, the National Security Council.
Volker Kauder, leader of the Christian Democratic (CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU) joint caucus in parliament, told ARD breakfast television, "If the contract is ever concluded, it won't be carried out in the next two or three years."
Like other government officials, he refused to confirm or deny the clearance. "If the order is placed, if it's confirmed, that will be made public," he added.
The opposition motions were expected to be voted down by the CDU/CSU and their coalition ally, the Free Democratic Party. The opposition had criticized the rumoured sale in parliament on Wednesday.
Kauder denied Germany was supplying any weapons that could be used against an Arab nation's own people, and said arms sales were only intended to "stabilize the region." Kauder defended the secrecy of the security cabinet.
"There are some decisions that you can't yell about on the open market," he said.
The A7+ model of the 60-ton main battle tank is made by German companies Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Rheinmetall. Reports estimate a sale price of 1.7 billion euros (2.4 billion dollars).
Foreign arms sales have been controversial in Germany for decades, with leftist critics alleging they are driven by a big-business coterie.
Opposition critics charged that the Saudis had used foreign-made armoured vehicles to repress pro-democracy protests in Bahrain in March when Saudi Arabia joined a Gulf security force that cleared the protesters from streets.
Germany also upset other European allies when it abstained on the UN Security Council resolution authorizing military action to protect Libyan civilians.