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Israel Continues to Object to German Arms Sales to Saudis

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Israeli diplomats here are insisting vehemently that there has been no softening of Israel’s objections to West German arms sales to Saudi Arabia, as hinted by several newspapers and periodicals here and abroad in recent weeks. According to a report in the latest issue of Der Spiegel — never denied by the government — Israel would not oppose the sale of advanced weapons systems to the Saudis, particularly the sophisticated Leopard II tank, if it were allowed access to German technology for the production of the 120 mm. cannon that goes with the tank.

Responding to those reports, an Israeli diplomat here declared, “We are definitely against such arms sales and we reject any suggestions for a so-called compensating deal. Our attitude has not been changed since the issue has come up several years ago.”

The Israelis asked for a license to produce the cannon about five years ago. It is manufactured by the Rheinmetall Co. of Duesseldorf and the technology was transferred to the United States. The cannon will be the main weapon of the new American Abrams tank.

German sources believe Israel badly wants the modern weapon which, in any case, will eventually go to the Saudis. If Bonn refuses to sell the Leopard II tank to Saudi Arabia, they will buy the Abrams tank from the U.S., the sources said.

While the Israelis are making it clear they will not budge in their opposition to German arms sales to Saudi Arabia, both Bonn and Jerusalem are anxious that the issue should not cloud the improving relations between the two countries, especially before Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s visit to Israel August 31-September 4.

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