Saudi Arabia seeks to boost arsenal with 600-800 German tanks

Deal sparks controversy in Germany

FRANKFURT - Saudi Arabia wants to buy 600-800 Leopard battle tanks from Germany, more than twice as many as originally envisaged, the Sunday newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported, quoting government sources.
Thus far, reports had said the Saudis wanted to purchase around 300 Leopard-2 tanks, Germany's main battle tank which is also produced under licence in Spain.
With up to 800 tanks, the deal would be worth 10 billion euros ($12.6 billion), and one of the biggest-ever for the German defence industry, Bild am Sonntag reported.
While there is opposition to the deal in the Chancellery and the Foreign and Defence ministries, there was support for it within the Economy Ministry, it said.
A deal for a first tranche of 300 tanks is ready for signing and the Saudis want to the whole deal wrapped up by July 20, when the festival of Ramadan begins, the newspaper said.
Spanish firm General Dynamic/Santa Barbara would produce the tanks under licence by the German firms, the newspaper said.
Arms exports are a sensitive issue in Germany given its Nazi past as well as the role arms makers like Krupp played in feeding 19th and 20th century wars with exports to both sides of conflicts.
Germany has refrained from exporting heavy weapons to Gulf states in the past, given its close relationship with Israel and more recently because of the so-called Arab Spring.