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German: in a New Phase of Military Cooperation with Arab Countries

West Germany appears to be embarking on a new phase of military cooperation with Arab countries. Deputy Foreign Minister Juergen Moellemann has confirmed in the Bundestag that Bonn will sell arms to Saudi Arabia in the near future, though he did not say when.

Egypt’s Defense Minister Muhamad Abdel Halim Abu Ghazala arrived here yesterday for talks with his German counterpart, Manfred Woerner, and other senior officials. The Defense Minister of Sudan was here last week for talks which included arms purchase negotiations.

A delegation of Saudi military experts is expected shortly to discuss West Germany’s arms sales offers and will inspect military installations. The Egyptian minister, too, is touring Bundeswehr bases and will watch military exercises.

No information has been released on possible weapons sales to Egypt but one source said they are feasible. The Saudis however have received definite offers of modem military equipment and military cooperation on a large scale. Israel is objecting vehemently, but so far, only in private.

SAYS ISRAEL’S SECURITY IS NOT AFFECTED

Moelleman, replying to questions in parliament, insisted that the security of Israel will not be affected by German arms sales to Saudi Arabia. He would not elaborate but said Chancellor Helmut Kohl would explain this to the Israelis when he visits Israel, probably early next year.

He said the government’s decision to sell arms to the Saudis was based on several considerations: the need to stabilize that country and give it the capacity to defend itself against both internal and external threats; the moderate attitude of the Saudis in the Arab-Israeli conflict; and the important role of Saudi Arabia in the world economy.

ISRAEL FEARS A PRECEDENT

The Israeli government so for has refrained from any top level reaction to these developments. Premier Yitzhak Shamir and Defense Minister Moshe Arens have refused to comment publicly. But an Israeli diplomat came to Bonn last week to explain his government’s attitude.

He told German officials that arms sales to Saudi Arabia would set a precedent which would make it difficult for Bonn to reject arms purchase requests from other Arab countries. Moreover, he said Israel feels threatened by the scale of the projected German arms sales to Saudi Arabia which, in its view, is far out of proportion to Saudi defensive needs.

According to the Israeli, if Saudi Arabia is to defend itself from an upheaval from within, modern anti-aircraft systems and armored vehicles are not the kinds of weapons needed. If there is outside aggression, it would probably come from a major world power against which the Saudis could not defend themselves in any event, he argued.

The Israeli also contended that, contrary to their moderate image, the Saudis have declared a holy war against Israel and stubbornly refused to participate in the peace process in the Middle East. On the other hand, the Israeli said, the Saudis continue to support the Palestine Liberation Organization and other extremist groups engaged in subversive and terrorist activities.

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