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Germans to Talk to U.s., Israel Before Selling Arms to Saudis

The government said today that it will consult with Israel and the United States before making a final decision on arms sales to Saudi Arabia. It confirmed, at the same time, that Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher have discussed arms sales with Saudi officials.

Kohl was reported to have met secretly with the Saudi Defense Minister, Prince Sultan Abdul Aziz, several weeks ago and Genscher met with the Saudi Ambassador in Bonn. Both meetings were related to the Saudi interest in purchasing the German Leopard II tank and other advanced weapons systems.

Peter Boenisch, a government spokesman, said further discussions would be held. He indicated that a decision is not likely until after Kohl visits Israel and Saudi Arabia next September. He noted that the governing Christian Democratic Union (CDU) favors arms sales abroad but wants to keep them limited.

There has been speculation here that Israel might drop its objections to a West German arms deal with Saudi Arabia if Israel also received German weaponry. But Boenisch said he knew nothing of any Israeli requests to buy German arms. The Bonn government apparently is trying to work out an arrangement whereby both Saudi Arabia and Israel will benefit from cooperation with West Germany. The daily Die Welt reported that a high ranking Bonn official went to Jerusalem several days ago to consult with the Israeli government.

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