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Arms sales plummet to five-year low

Ammunition made up nearly a third of Swiss weapons exports (Ruag) RUAG

Sales of Swiss arms and weapon components dropped by more than a third last year to SFr257.7 million ($197.3 million) from a record high in 2004.

This content was published on February 14, 2006 - 15:30

The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) said the sudden decrease was in line with regular fluctuations over the past years.

Othmar Wyss of Seco said the latest figures could not be read as a new trend since they depended on the timing of a few major deals.

Neighbouring Germany remained Switzerland's best customer with exports worth SFr59 million in 2005, ahead of Denmark (SFr32 million) and the United States (SFr28 million), Seco said on Tuesday.

Swiss arms went to a total of 72 countries last year.

The percentage of customer countries in Europe increased markedly over the year before, while African countries accounted for just one per cent in 2005.

UAE, India

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) bought Swiss arms components worth SFr3.5 million, but a deal to sell 180 used armoured vehicles was suspended by the Swiss government.

The UAE had said it wanted to pass on the vehicles to Iraq to help the authorities maintain law and order in the country.

India, which was struck off a list of banned countries by the government in 2005, acquired Swiss arms and components worth SFr0.3 million.

Pakistan and South Korea, which were also re-admitted as buyers last year, do not appear on the list.

The export of arms and weapons components is subject to approval by the Swiss authorities.

Ammunition, armoured vehicles

Ammunition made up 31 per cent of Swiss weapons and arms components exports, followed by armoured vehicles and military aircraft.

In total, arms exports accounted for 0.17 per cent of Switzerland's overall foreign trade figure.

The 35-per-cent drop in sales comes after arms exports reached a 16-year high in 2004 after four consecutive annual increases.

But the absolute record was in 1987 when SFr578 million worth of arms were sold.

The government last year rejected nine requests for arms exports, worth SFr0.6 million, from seven different countries.

The figure is down from 18 rejected requests in 2004.

Pacifist groups have critised the government's arms exports policy and called for an outright ban on the trade in these weapons.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Swiss arms exports:

2005: SFr257.7 million
2004: SFr402 million
2003: SFr379 million

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In brief

The export of arms and weapons components is subject to approval by the Swiss authorities.

Sales to warring countries are banned under Swiss law.

The legislation covers arms systems, ammunition and explosives as well as other material used for combat training.

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