Merkel Party Warns US Arms for Gulf Could Set off “Powder Keg”

August 2, 2007 by  


Agence France-Presse

Berlin – German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats are worried that reported US plans to send a major arms package to Gulf states could inflame a volatile region, a party leader was quoted as saying Monday.

The chairman of the German parliament’s foreign affairs committee, Ruprecht Polenz, told the daily Frankfurter Rundschau that the Middle East was already a “powder keg” and that an influx of weapons could set it off.

“If you add more explosives to a powder keg, you increase the risk and do not make the region more secure,” he said.

Polenz said the warning that the United States hoped to send to Iran with the weapons deal could backfire, leading Tehran to step up its own arms drive.

Foreign ministry spokesman Martin Jaeger declined to directly comment on the press reports but said that basic principles of foreign policy applied in judging potential arms deals.

“We support what will bring more stability to the Gulf region and that is why we will have to very carefully evaluate these things on a case-by-case basis,” he told a regular government news conference.

“Political means should be the preferred way of resolving existing conflicts and decreasing tensions. The Gulf states themselves must have an interest in resolving possible tensions between them in political talks with each other.”

Jaeger said Iran was key to the process of generating more stability in the Gulf region.

“That is why we call on Iran once again to participate in such discussions constructively and with clear intentions.”

The Washington Post reported Saturday that the United States plans a series of arms deals worth at least 20 billion dollars with Saudi Arabia and five other oil-rich Gulf states.

The plan also includes new 10-year military aid packages to Israel and Egypt, said the Post, citing unnamed US officials.

The paper said the deals were aimed at shoring up US allies in the Middle East and countering “a more aggressive Iran.”

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates is expected to discuss the package – reportedly worth 20 billion dollars – on a visit with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Saudi Arabia and other Arab states this week.

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