BERLIN Dec 30 The German government is close to
completing a 100 million-euro arms deal with Saudi Arabia to
sell 30 armoured vehicles, and Berlin's national security
council has already signaled its backing, Bild am Sonntag
newspaper reported on Sunday.
Quoting sources it said were involved in the negotiations,
the newspaper said Saudia Arabia wants to buy a total of 100 of
the "Dingo" armoured vehicles over the longer term.
The armoured vehicles are manufactured by Krauss
Maffei-Wegmann and Bruker Daltonik from Leipzig, Bild said.
The national security council, which includes Chancellor
Angela Merkel and the ministers of defence, development, economy
and foreign affairs, still must give the final approval once the
deal is completed, Bild am Sonntag said.
The government never comments on decisions by the council,
which meets under strict secrecy.
Earlier this month, Der Spiegel magazine reported Saudia
Arabia wanted to buy several hundred BOXER armoured fighting
vehicles, another type of armoured vehicle made by Artec, a
joint-venture of Rheinmettal Defence and Kraus-Maffei Wegmann.
The magazine suggested the vehicles could be used in
confroting possible demonstrations. According to other
unconfirmed media reports, Germany gave pre-approval for the
export of 270 Leopard 2 tanks to Saudi Arabia in 2011.
Opposition leaders are concerned about German arms being
used against demonstrators in Saudia Arabia and in the region.
Saudia Arabia has a fifth of the global oil reserves but
tension is smouldering between those who want more social and
political change, such as greater rights for women, and powerful
conservatives who condemn such reforms as un-Islamic.
The aftermath of last year's Arab uprisings has undermined
old Saudi allies and destabilized the region. Anti-government
protests among minority Saudi Shi'ites have resulted in the
deaths of 12 demonstrators and one policeman in shooting
incidents this year.
Shi'ites complain of entrenched discrimination, which Riyadh
In Bahrain Shi'ite-led unrest is resurging a year after the
ruling Al Khalifa family brought in Saudi and United Arab
Emirates troops to help suppress an uprising.
Arms exports are already a sensitive issue in Germany given
its Nazi past as well as the role arms makers such as Krupp
played in feeding 19th and 20th century wars with exports to
both sides of conflicts.
Germany has refrained from exporting heavy weapons to Gulf
states in the past because of its relationship with Israel and
more recently because of the Arab Spring revolts.
However according to a government report, Berlin approved
the export of 5.4 billion euros worth of arms in 2011, after
studying requests from different countries, a 14 percent
increase from the previous year. Of those arms, 42 percent went
to countries outside of the European Union or NATO.
In 2011, Saudi Arabian security sources said the country was
buying hundreds of tanks from Germany in a multi-billion euro
deal that German opposition lawmakers at the time said
contravened export guidelines for military hardware.
Peer Steinbrueck, a leader of the opposition Social
Democrats running against Merkel in next year's election, has
criticized her government for letting arms exports surge and
said he would end that if his centre-left alliance wins.
After World War Two, successive West German and later united
German governments placed tight restrictions on arms exports,
especially to regions where there were armed conflicts or where
human rights were poorly respected.
"It's a scandal and extremely dangerous that Germany has
become the world's third largest exporter of weapons," said had
Steinbrueck. "We're even exporting weapons to regions in
conflict and to areas where human rights aren't respected."