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Published: Sunday April 13, 2014 MYT 5:55:02 PM
Updated: Sunday April 13, 2014 MYT 5:56:10 PM

German tank sale to Saudi Arabia likely to be cancelled - newspaper

BERLIN (Reuters) - A sale of several hundred German battle tanks to Saudi Arabia is likely to be cancelled because of opposition from Social Democrat Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel, a German newspaper reported on Sunday.

German media have reported interest by Saudi Arabia in buying up to 800 Leopard 2 tanks from Germany. Such reports are never confirmed because of the sensitivity of arms deals.

The newspaper said Saudi Arabia had tried for years to get the tanks from German firms Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Rheinmetall and had some 18 billion euros (14 billion pounds) available in its budget for the purchase.

"The government will not approve the disputed export," Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported, citing government sources.

"Gabriel plays a key role in this, as he has positioned himself against a tanks delivery to the autocratic royal house, according to government sources."

Arms sales are a sensitive issue in Germany because of the country's Nazi past and the role of arms makers in fuelling 19th and 20th century wars.

Germany's national security council, which includes conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel and the ministers of economy, defence, development and foreign affairs, has to approve such deals but its decisions are not made public.

Gabriel has told media in the past he thought it was a "shame" that Germany exported so many weapons.

(Reporting by Annika Breidthardt; editing by Andrew Roche)

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