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Patria's Saudi Arabia weapons deal draws fire

An international think tank has slammed Finland's decision to sell grenade launchers to Saudi Arabia. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) says the weapons could be used to suppress protests.

Nemo-kranaatinheitinjärjestelmä Image: Patria

Saudi Arabia has ordered 36 grenade launchers from Patria, which received government permission to sell the Nemo mortar system to the country last December.

But a researcher at SIPRI says the deal carries an ethical dilemma.

"It's a system which is very easy to deploy. You can easily drive it somewhere and then use it against -- well you can choose -- against an armed force that threatens you, but you can also use it for extreme violence against a population," says Pieter Wezeman of the institute.

Arab spring blooming?

Tensions are meanwhile mounting in Saudi Arabia between the Sunni rulers and the country's Shi'ite minority.

The grenade launchers will be installed on Canadian armoured vehicles which Saudi Arabia used to quell popular protests in neighbouring Bahrain.

Wezeman says it's not inconceivable that Patria's weapons could be used for similar purposes.

"I really hope that the Finnish authorities have considered that the weapons can be used in the types of conflict we have seen in Libya, Syria, Egypt -- all the places where there's been an uprising," Wezeman adds.

It's no secret that grenade launchers can inflict heavy damage. But this hasn't kept despots like Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from using them against their own people.

Sources: YLE

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