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Bundestag Factions Debate Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia

The ruling Social Democratic Party (SPD) and its junior coalition partner, the Free Democratic Party (FDP) have begun a debate over proposals to modify West Germany’s self-imposed ban on arms sales to non-NATO countries in unstable regions or which are in a state of war.

The first meeting of the joint body of the coalition parties followed on the heels of Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Fahd’s visit to Bonn last week. The Saudis are seeking a major weapons purchase deal with the Federal Republic which would include powerful Leopard II tanks and other highly sophisticated military hardware.

The issues were raised during Fahd’s talks with Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, attended by Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher and the finance ministers of both countries. Bilateral matters were also discussed. Government officials said later that no final answer was given the Saudis on the arms deal and that it will be taken up again after Bonn has completed a review of its arms sales policy.

AWACS DEAL WILL INFLUENCE OUTCOME

But the U. S. Senate’s approval last week of the Reagan Administration’s $8.5 billion arms package for Saudi Arabia, including five AWACS reconnaissance aircraft, is expected to influence Bonn’s final decision. Juergen Moellemann, a spokesman for the FDP, said over the weekend that Bonn should “follow suit” and “make its own contribution to stabilizing Saudi Arabia and the Middle East.” Moellemann is a close party aide of Genscher and has been an outspoken advocate of arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Another FDP Bundestag member, Helmut Schaefer, said after Fahd’s visit that the restrictions on arms sales should be modified in the economic interests of the Federal Republic. He said weapons deliveries to non-NATO countries are necessary in certain cases in order to contribute to the balance of power and to good relations with West Germany’s friends. Schaefer’s remarks are believed to reflect Genscher’s views.

The SPD-FPD joint body is expected to formulate proposals within the next few weeks to be taken up by both coalition factions separately. Observers said President Reagan’s victory on the AWACS deal would probably make it easier for Schmidt to get parliamentary support for arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

There is, however, strong opposition within the SPD. Annemarie Renger, Vice President of the Bundestag and a devoted friend of Israel, declared over the weekend that the arms sale to the Saudis will not go through.

Returning from a visit to Jerusalem, Renger said that Premier Menachem Begin had promised her that Israel

Israel would welcome Schmidt with all due respect should he accept a long standing invitation to visit Israel. Schmidt has deferred the visit because of differences with the Israelis ever a peace settlement in the Middle East. The West German Chancellor was the target of bitter personal attacks by Begin during the Knesset election campaign last spring. Renger said Begin’s attack was based largely on a misinterpretation of remarks made by Schmidt when he returned from a visit to Saudi Arabia earlier this year.

“I have explained the real intentions of Schmidt to Begin and I have been given the impression that he (Begin) is willing to think the matter over,” Renger said. She noted that “Begin is a man whose family was killed by the Nazis. He will do everything in his power to avoid any danger for his country,” she said.

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