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Politics

Report: Saudis shopping for more German heavy weapons

Major German newspaper Bild has reported that Saudi Arabia is seeking 30 new German armored transport vehicles. The government's weapons export policies have come under heavy media scrutiny of late.

The mass-circulation Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported on Sunday that the Saudi Arabian government wanted to purchase at least 30 heavily-armored infantry mobility vehicles from Germany.

Bild said, citing government sources, that the government in Riad was hoping to spend 100 million euros ($132 million) on 30 "ATF Dingo 2" vehicles. In the long term, the report said, the Islamist government could be in the market for up to 100 of the vehicles.

The paper said that the government's council which meets in secret to discuss such matters had signaled its approval for the deal, which usually permits a producer to make the sale - adding, however, that it was not yet finalized. Although most international weapons sales are conducted by private manufacturers in Germany, almost all of them require approval from the federal government in Berlin.

The wholly-enclosed Dingo 2 can carry eight infantry personnel, and is equipped with a top-mounted machine gun as standard, operated from within by remote control. Other weaponry can be mounted on its roof. The Dingo 2 also boasts special sensors and other equipment designed to help seek, analyze and even withstand some traces of atomic, biological or chemical attacks.

Merkel in media crosshairs

The German government's arms sales have come under intense media scrutiny of late. Weekly magazine Der Spiegel put a doctored image of Merkel in military uniform on its front page earlier in December, with the cover headline "German weapons for the world."

That edition of the magazine was particularly critical of a proposed deal with Saudi Arabia to sell several hundred Boxer armored fighting vehicles. In August of 2011, Spiegel reported plans to sell 200 Leopard tanks to the Saudis, a story that prompted a Constitutional Court complaint from the opposition Greens.

The Social Democrat candidate for chancellor in next year's federal elections, Peer Steinbrück, said in a newspaper interview last week that it was "a scandal and extremely dangerous that Germany has become the world's third largest exporter of weapons."

Critics of the German arms sales say that the weaponry might be used to suppress civilian protesters in the event of civil unrest comparable to regional neighbors. At the height of the 2011 unrest in tiny, neighboring Bahrain, Saudi security forces were deployed.

Saudi Arabia's Sunni government is frequently criticized by rights groups and democracy advocates. Authorities said on Friday that a Shi'ite man, described as a rioter, was shot dead by security forces.

msh/jr (AFP, dpa, Reuters)