Canada Calling: Israeli Ambassador Denounces Canadian Weapons Sales

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Canada Calling: Israeli Ambassador Denounces Canadian Weapons Sales

In what could become the most controversial foreign arms sales in Canadian history, Ottawa recently approved in principle two multimillion dollar weapons deals, one with Saudi Arabia and another with an unspecified Arab country.

Critics have condemned the proposed deals as deviations from Canada's strict guidelines on arms exports, and argued that introducing advanced military technology into the Middle East sets a dangerous precedent for Canada.

Last month, Ottawa gave the green light to a company in New Brunswick to study a proposal from the Saudis for the purchase of three Canadian Patrol Frigates (CPF) estimated to cost $500 million each. The company, Saint John Shipbuilding, said the deal is in its "very preliminary" stages.

Approval by Ottawa also is expected for the export to another Arab country of the sophisticated Air Defense Anti-Tank System (ADATS), manufactured by Oerlikon Aerospace of Quebec. Federal officials have until now been tight- lipped about the ADATS sale or its destination, saying only that the matter involves a private commercial venture.

Proponents and Critics

Proponents of the deals stress that the weapons involved are strictly for defensive purposes, and that the ADATS, which consists of armored vehicles outfitted with laser-guided missiles, has a range of a mere 10 kilometers. Critics, however, counter that the frigates destined for Saudi Arabia are among the most technologically advanced warships in the world. With their array of the latest in conventional weaponry, critics insist, whether or not they can be described as purely defensive "depends on which side of the gun you're on." Martin Shadwick of York University's Center for International and Strategic Studies in Toronto contends that intense research programs have brought Canadians to the forefront of naval technology and argues against adding "to the spiral" of weapons proliferation in the Middle East. "Before proceeding, we need to consider this sale very carefully," he said.

Israel's ambassador to Canada denounced the proposed deals, saying they run counter to Ottawa's arms export policy, which forbids the sale of military technology to countries that pose a threat to "Canada and its allies." Said Yitzhak Shelef, "We understand Canadian policy. That's why we cannot understand the proposal to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia. …

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