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Arms export row

August 1, 2011

A former German cabinet minister has joined the opposition Greens in criticizing Berlin for a suspected tanks deal with Saudi Arabia. The Greens have initiated legal proceedings to force Berlin to confirm the sale.

German "Leopard" tanks
Merkel's government refuses to direcly comment on the saleImage: AP

Former development minister, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, spoke out against the German government on Monday for the suspected sale of 200 "Leopard" combat tanks to the Saudi government

The Berliner Zeitung newspaper reported that Wieczorek-Zeul accused the government of hypocrisy.

"The tank deal with Saudi Arabia is a catastrophic decision," she said. In selling the tanks, Germany has "supported an authoritarian, despotic regime."

This policy "is the exact opposite of the government's public stance on the democratic uprisings in the Arab World," Wieczorek-Zeul added.

She called on German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle to justify conducting a secret arms deal while publicly supporting the democracy movement in Egypt.

Court complaint

Wieczorek-Zeul's comments came just a day after Germany's opposition Green party announced it had launched a complaint with the country's highest court, over the sale of the tanks.

German news magazine Spiegel reported Sunday that Green party leaders had filed a motion with the Constitutional Court, demanding that information over the deal be made public.

Reports of the sale have been published by several news organizations, but the German government has so far refused to comment on the basis of national security.

The Greens argued this position is untenable as the alleged deal has been in the public sphere for weeks. Deputy party leader, Hans-Christian Ströbele told Spiegel that even if confidentiality was justifiable, information must be relayed to parliament.

Until now, it has been German government policy not to export heavy weapons to the authoritarian regime in Saudi Arabia.

Author: Charlotte Chelsom-Pill (dapd, AFP)
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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