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German-Saudi tank deal

Timothy JonesJune 17, 2012

A German newspaper has reported that a controversial Saudi-German deal for Leopard battle tanks is more than twice as big as planned. Some in Berlin are said to have misgivings.

German Leopard-2 battle tank in motion
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Krauss-Maffei Wegmann

The German Sunday newspaper Bild am Sonntag quoted government sources as saying Saudi Arabia now wants to buy 600-800 Leopard-2 tanks from Germany.

That's more than double the number originally envisaged. Previous reports had said the Saudis wanted around 300 tanks.

The paper said the deal for up to 800 tanks would be worth 10 billion euros ($12.6 billion). That would make it one of the biggest ever for the German defence industry.

According to the report, a deal for a first tranche of 300 tanks is ready for signing. The paper quoted industry sources as saying that Saudi Arabia wants the deal concluded before July 20, when the Muslim festival of Ramadan begins.

Government reservations

The Bild am Sonntag said, however, that there was opposition to the deal among government members. The Chancellery and the foreign and defense ministries were against selling the tanks, while there was support within the economy ministry, it said.

Critics of such deals claim that Saudi Arabia violates human rights and the principles of democracy. In addition, Germany has a fundamental policy of not delivering arms to areas of tension, such as the Middle East.

Critics also cite Saudi Arabia's military assistance to Bahrain in putting down pro-democracy protests in that country last year.

The Leopard-2 is Germany's main battle tank. It is also produced under license in Spain. The Bild am Sonntag said Riyadh chose the German tank over the United States' M1 Abrams.

The tank will, however, have to be adapted for use in desert areas.

tj/mz (dapd, dap, Reuters)