Campaign Begun to Oppose German Military Sales to Saudi Arabia

– Several outspoken friends of Israel have launched a campaign here opposed to arms sales to Saudi Arabia by the West German government. They include Bundestag Vice President Anne-Marie Renger, a leading member of the ruling Social Democratic Party (SPD), and a small group of parliamentarions from the Free Democratic Party, the SPD’s coalition partner.

Under fire is the recently adopted position by Bonn that Saudi Arabia is not an “area of tension” and therefore may be removed from the government’s self-imposed ban on selling weapons to countries in such areas which are not members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). That position, recently enunciated by Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, was seen as part of a campaign to prepare public opinion for the sale of 300 highly sophisticated Leopard II tanks to Saudi Arabia.

SAUDI PRESSURE ON BONN

Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and Key Cabinet ministers were reported to be strongly in favor of the arms deal, negotiated by Schmidt with the Saudi rulers when he visited that country last year. According to German newspapers, the Saudis are putting pressure on Bonn to go through with the arms sale. They are reminding West German leaders of their oil shipments and of the 8 billion Mark credit they advanced to the West German government last year to tide it over a fiscal crunch.

Should the deal go through, observers here say it would be tantamount to military cooperation between the two countries leading to a “special relationship.” Schmidt himself publicly praised the Saudi leaders on several occasions and spoke of close political cooperation with the Saudi Royal Family.

Meanwhile, the Defense Ministry has denied rumors in the foreign media that the West German army has sent instructors to Saudi Arabia to train Saudi soldiers to operate the Leopard II tanks.

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