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Swiss tanks still waiting to be delivered

Although the Swiss government has approved the sale of 180 M113 armoured personnel carriers to the United Arab Emirates, none has yet been delivered.

Final authorisation is still lacking after the attacks on London triggered new fears and fanned the debate regarding Swiss neutrality.

The Swiss government approved the export on June 29 but has yet to issue a legally binding export certificate, said Manuel Sager from the economics ministry on Friday.

Sager said that after it became known that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) would hand the 180 armoured-personnel carriers over to the Iraqi government as a gift, a so-called end-user declaration was required, formally acknowledging that this was the case.

The Iraqi government must now confirm that the tanks are indeed bound for Iraq.

Until now such a declaration was not required, but now Ruag, an armaments group, must submit the end-user declaration to the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco).

It is not yet known when this end-user declaration will be handed in.

Seco added that the United States, as the personnel carriers’ country of manufacture, must confirm that it approves of the deal.

No tanks

News of the sale provoked a mixed political reaction.

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 Switzerland should not be 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 Greens said it went against the letter and spirit of the military-equipment law, which forbids the export of arms to war zones or trouble hot spots.

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

Reto Nause, general-secretary of the Christian Democrats, said the tanks would only have been turned into scrap in Switzerland and in Iraq they would strengthen security.

Terrorist target

Critics of the sale gained further momentum after the suicide bomb attacks in London on July 7 which killed at least 53 people and injured more than 700.

It was claimed that the delivery of tanks to Iraq could make Switzerland a target for Islamic terrorists.

However, economics minister Joseph Deiss on Sunday denied that the risk would be any higher. He said that the government would continue with the sale.

Albert Stahel, a leading security expert, told swissinfo that the risk of an attack by Islamic extremists on Switzerland remains very small.

But he said that some members of terrorist groups were able to use the country’s financial institutions to deposit money.

Stahel said the government could use the armoured vehicles for the protection of foreign embassies in Switzerland instead of selling them to other countries.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

From now until 2010, the Swiss army has to dispose of a surplus worth SFr10 billion ($7.7 billion), including 1,200 M109 and M113 armoured vehicles. These include:
200 personnel carriers
30 helicopters
45 combat jets
2,600 tons of barbed wire
230 tons of tents

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