Swiss personnel carriers to go to Iraq

The cabinet has approved the sale of 180 armoured personnel carriers to the United Arab Emirates, which will in turn present them to Iraq.

This content was published on June 29, 2005 - 19:27

The move has attracted criticism from the main political parties in Switzerland, which say the sale damages the principle of neutrality.

The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) justified the decision by saying that Switzerland, like other countries, had "an interest in ensuring that the situation in Iraq stabilised as soon as possible".

However, this was only possible when Iraqi security forces were adequately equipped to protect themselves.

The M113 tanks have a value of SFr12 million ($9.4 million) and are part of a Swiss army surplus. They are in good condition, added Seco in a statement.

As further justification, it cited a United Nations’ resolution from last year, which called on UN members to help Iraq to preserve law and order.

This meant that the latest sale circumvented the international embargo.

Criticism

The rightwing Swiss People’s Party and the centre-left Social Democrats said that the move was contrary to neutrality.

People’s Party spokesman Simon Glauser said that it was not possible that Switzerland was delivering weapons to a country, in which it had been trying to establish peace for years.

Social Democrat Nicolas Gallade said that the export went against Swiss development policy.

The party said in a statement: "If the cabinet approves weapons export to crisis and war-ridden regions such as South Korea, India, Iraq and Pakistan, that means that Switzerland can practically export weapons to any other country."

However, the Christian Democrats and Radicals accepted the government’s argument that Switzerland had an interest in stabilising the situation in Iraq.

More of the same

At the same time, Seco announced that arms exports would be making their way to India, Pakistan and South Korea.

In 1998 Switzerland decided not to export arms to the South Asian countries in the light of their attempts to assemble an atom bomb. However, should they fulfil certain criteria, exports may take place, said Seco.

It added that South Korea posed no danger to international or regional security and that the delivery of 50-100 heads for heat-seeking missiles was therefore unproblematic.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

From now until 2010, the Swiss army has to dispose of a surplus worth SFr10 billion.
These include:
200 personnel carriers
30 helicopters
45 combat jets
2,600 tons of barbed wire
230 tons of tents

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