Saudi Arabia looks to buy patrol boats from German firm: media

Sun Feb 10, 2013 7:00am EST
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BERLIN (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia is looking into buying patrol boats worth 1.5 billion euros ($2 billion) from a German firm, and appears to have won the Berlin government's approval despite widespread public criticism of arms deals, a newspaper reported on Sunday.

The Arab kingdom was exploring a deal to buy the ships, each costing between 10 and 25 million euros, from Bremen-based dockyard Luerssen, Bild am Sonntag newspaper said.

Arms exports are a sensitive issue in Germany given the country's Nazi past and the role arms makers like Krupp played in fuelling numerous 19th and 20th century wars.

Germany's national security council, which includes Chancellor Angela Merkel and the ministers of defense, development, economy and foreign affairs, had already given the deal a preliminary nod, according to the newspaper.

The council has to approve such deals in Germany but its decisions are not made public. A spokeswoman for the economy ministry, which oversees such deals, declined to comment.

No one at Luerssen was immediately available for comment.

The newspaper did not say why Saudi Arabia might be seeking the vessels.

But Saudi Arabia's foe Iran has repeatedly threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, a route for oil exports from the Gulf, if Iranian nuclear sites are attacked by Israel, which believes Tehran is trying to develop an atomic bomb - a charge Tehran denies.

While Iran's navy lacks a modern combat capability, its Revolutionary Guards have a wide range of more modern missile patrol boats armed with Chinese and Iranian-made anti-ship missiles, Western defense analysts say.   Continued...