Peer Steinbrück, who is set to challenge Angela Merkel for the German chancellorship next year, has criticized her government for letting arms exports surge. He vowed to cut the exports if his opposition wins power.
"It's a scandal and extremely dangerous that Germany has become the world's third largest exporter of weapons," Peer Steinbrück told the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper on Saturday.
Steinbrück, a former German finance minister, is set to face off against Chancellor Angela Merkel next September representing his center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD).
"An SPD-Greens government led by me would change that," said Steinbrück, 65. "We're even exporting weapons to regions in conflict and to areas where human rights aren't respected."
In 2001 Germany was the world's sixth largest arms exporter behind the United States, Russia, Britain, France and Italy selling $925 million (702 million euros) worth of weapons abroad.
Germany is now third behind the US and Russia after exporting $2.48 billion in 2010, according to the latest data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Steinbrück told the newspaper that he was not afraid to flex his thoughts on foreign policy, "I've been around in the world quite a bit."
"At the appropriate time, I'll be making comments on foreign policy on the campaign trail," he said.
While arms exports will most likely not be a key election issue, Steinbrück's attack on Merkel is seen as a reflection of his fighting spirit on an issue that is important for some leftist voters.
Recently, the arms issue made headlines after Der Spiegel magazine reported that Saudi Arabia wants to buy several hundred armored vehicles from Germany.
Der Spiegel suggested the vehicles could be used against pro-democracy demonstrations. According to Der Spiegel, Germany gave pre-approval for the export of 270 Leopard 2 tanks to Saudi Arabia in 2011.
hc/dr (Reuters, AFP, dapd)