Germany sells tanks to Qatar, delays on subs to Pakistan

Filed on May 16, 2009

BERLIN - Germany is to sell main battle tanks to Qatar, ending a long ban on selling the heavy weapons to Arabian peninsula nations, the news magazine Der Spiegel said on Saturday.

But a sale of stealth submarines to Pakistan was on hold till after Germany’s general election in September, the magazine reported, without citing sources.

Under German law, the manufacturers must obtain clearances from Chancellor Angela’s Merkel’s national security council for the sales. The council, an inner cabinet of ministers with security portfolios, issues clearances before contracts are signed.

Der Spiegel said Germany had in the past declined to sell its Leopard 2 tanks to Saudi Arabia so as not to upset Israel.

It said the sale of 36 tanks to tiny Qatar was quietly approved last year with the proviso that Israel must be informed, but the Jewish state apparently did not object. Spiegel said this was presumably because Qatar had little need to use them, since it was not under threat from its land neighbours, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Its 9,000-man army was acquiring the tanks for prestige reasons. Qatar is home to a large US base.

The sale of three sophisticated fuel-cell-powered Type 214 submarines to Pakistan had been approved, and an export credit of 1 billion euros (1.3 billion dollars) had been offered, but no contract had been signed yet, Spiegel said.

It said the sale negotiations were dragging out. With Pakistan destabilized by Taliban advances, the council had decided to adjourn further deliberation on the potentially controversial sale till after September.

The submarines are extremely quiet and can lurk under water for weeks, giving them the same capability as nuclear-powered submarines.

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