Tiger Tensions Germany and France at Loggerheads over Arms Deal with Libya

Berlin is unhappy with a French arms deal with Libya. President Nicolas Sarkozy wants to sell 12 Franco-German Tiger combat helicopters to Moammar Gadhafi despite objections from Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The Eurocopter-made Tiger combat helicopter.

The Eurocopter-made Tiger combat helicopter.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has found it difficult to get along with French President Nicolas Sarkozy since he took office almost a year ago. Although in the end they found a way to get over their disagreements on France's proposal for a Mediterranean Union, now another source of tension could be about to flare up.

A French arms deal with Libya is causing strain between Paris and Berlin after it emerged that Sarkozy wants to sell Libyan dictator, Moammar Gadhafi, 12 Tiger combat helicopters, which are manufactured by the Franco-German Eurocopter. The German government wants to prevent the deal going ahead and has already expressed its reservations in private talks with the French. However, Sarkozy appears happy to ignore these concerns and Germany has no right to veto the project.

According to an accord that was hammered out by the then German and French defence ministers, Helmut Schmidt and Michel Debre, in 1972, the partners cannot prevent each other from selling arms developed together to a third country. It is only if the export were to contravene German law that the delivery of components could be withheld in an "exceptional case." However, if Chancellor Merkel were to try to fall back on this proviso to block the Libyan deal it would be likely to lead to a serious spat with France.

Last July Sarkozy infuriated his EU partners when he signed a number of agreements on future cooperation with Gadhafi including deals on defense and civilian nuclear energy.



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