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Germany

Von der Leyen, parliamentarians hit de Maizière for G36

Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has criticized her office's dealings with the problematic G36 rifle under her predecessor Thomas de Maizière. In April, von der Leyen said the Bundeswehr would no longer use the G36.

Before a Bundestag defense committee on Wednesday, von der Leyen criticized fellow Christian Democrat (CDU) de Maizière for his handling of the G36. The rifle overheats on hot days or when fired too much, becoming so inaccurate as to be almost useless in combat situations.

"One sees clearly that it took long, too long, for the criticisms to be considered," von der Leyen said.

Now interior minister, de Maizière led Defense in 2012, when doubts about the Heckler & Koch rifle emerged. In November 2012, the ministry assured parliamentarians that the G36 worked. Defense has since provided parliamentarians with 3,000 pages of documentation on the inaccurate assault rifle.

G36

The accuracy degradation can reach 0.5 meters at a range of 200 meters, and 6 meters at a range of 500 meters

"I doubt whether it will truly be possible for the committee to unravel this tangle of problems," Social Democrat defense spokesman Rainer Arnold said on Wednesday.

In April, von der Leyen, who took power in December 2013, said that the rifle could not shoot straight enough to have a future in the German military. On Wednesday, von der Leyen said that the Defense Ministry would come up with an interim solution for arming German soldiers through the summer and that in fall officials would decide whether to seek improvements to the G36 or purchase a new weapon. De Maizière declined an invitation from the Left and the Greens to address the issue on Wednesday.

'Falsely informed'

Members of the Left party have criticized the Defense Ministry for its handling of the affair. Bundestag member Jan van Aken has alleged a corrupt relationship between regime officials and the weapons industry.

"Sometimes I don't even know where the company Heckler & Koch ends and where the ministry begins," van Aken said on Wednesday, adding that the office had "whitewashed" the gun manufacturer's responsibility. Van Aken, however, saved his sharpest criticism for de Maizière: "What kind of minister reads all the reports but doesn't do anything?"

The Greens call it incomprehensible that it took von der Leyen so long to notice the problems with the G36. "According to the documents that the Defense Ministry has now made available to us, it appears that the problem has long been downplayed at the Defense Ministry," Green Party Defense Chairwoman Agnieszka Brugger said on Wednesday, adding the Bundestag "had been falsely informed for years." She added that von der Leyen had "not grasped the dimension of the problem."

Heckler & Koch has also been accused of illegally selling weapons to Mexican forces.

mkg/bw (AFP, dpa)

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