West Germany Under Pressure by Saudis to Sell Them Leopard Tanks

Chancellor Helmut Kohl will make no commitment to sell Saudi Arabia West Germany’s sophisticated Leopard II tanks when he visits that country this week, government sources said here today. He may explore the possibility of providing the Saudis with other, less advanced German weaponry, the sources said.

But officials here expect the Chancellor to encounter demands in Riyadh to state unequivocally his government’s position on the tank sale. The Saudis are already exerting strong pressure on the issue, claiming that former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt made a definite commitment to the sale.

Schmidt has publicly denied this and his former aide, Hans-Juergen Wischnewski, said the Saudis were in fact informed that Bonn is not willing to deliver the Leopard II.

Government sources said the Chancellor is anxious not to focus attention on the controversial issue of West German arms sales to Middle East countries, at least until after the deployment of the American Pershing Two and Cruise missiles in the country at the end of this year.

The powerful peace movement is preparing a series of rallies, sit-ins and blockades to halt the deployment of the American nuclear warheads, causing serious headaches for Kohl’s government.

Nevertheless, arms sales are expected to be high on the agenda of Kohl’s Middle East tour which will take him to Egypt and Jordan as well as Saudi Arabia. He was to have visited Israel as well but postponed that trip because of the resignation of Premier Menachem Begin. Kohl will probably go to Israel next month, after a new Israeli government is installed, sources here said.

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