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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Church Report Condemns German Arms Sales to Tense Regions

German Radio: An annual church report on Germany's arms industry has rounded on the current government for increasing its weapons exports, especially to the world's flashpoints and poorest countries over the past year.

The Joint Conference Church and Development's (GKKE) annual report on arms exports has heavily criticized the German government for increasing its weapons export quota over the past 12 months, with specific condemnation reserved for its sales to developing countries and the Middle East.

Calling the state of Germany's arms business "expansionary," GKKE -- a working group made up of representatives from the Protestant and Catholic Church -- urged the government to use its position as EU president in the coming six months to push through more stringent arms export regulations.

At the unveiling of the report in Berlin on Monday, GKKE chairperson Stephan Reimers said that the increase in weapons trading with Middle Eastern countries was particularly worrying and claimed that Germany's armament deals in the unstable region was counter-productive to the peace process.

Exporting misery as well as arms

Reimers said that Germany was "turning its back on the principle of not selling arms to areas of tension" and added that supporting Israel with weapons was "problematic."

"Germany's supplying of arms to Israel goes way beyond the indisputable recognition under international law of Israel's right to exist," Reimers added. "The people of Israel and neighboring countries in the region have a right to peace, law and security."

Germany's arms business in the region also added weight to the argument that the federal government was also "exporting misery as well as weapons," Reimers added.

According to the GKKE, Germany's arms exports increased by 40 percent compared to the figures from 2005, adding 1.65 billion euros to the money made last year. The total worth of Germany's arms business rose from 3.8 to 4.2 billion euros.

Arms as well as aid for developing world

As well as the Middle East, the GKKE report slammed the government for exporting arms to the developing world. Germany may condemn the arms trade in developing nations and support international aid efforts, but the country still made 1.6 billion euros from the arms trade in poor countries, according to the report.

Germany's EU presidency should be used to re-evaluate the current behavioral code for arms exports, Reimer concluded. New standards should be set and closely monitored, he added, saying that the "urgent wish" of the GKKE was to see Germany take a stand against arms proliferation and for a common policy to be agreed by all EU states on the restriction of weapons sales.
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