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Indonesia pulls out of Dutch tanks deal

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JAKARTA (AFP): Indonesia Tuesday said it had pulled out of a USD 280 million deal to buy 100 Leopard battle tanks from the Netherlands after waiting several months for the Dutch parliament to approve the sale.

The Netherlands' minority government planned to sell the tanks to raise money for unmanned drones, but the majority of parties in parliament opposed the deal because of Jakarta's poor human rights record, Dutch media reported.

"We are disappointed because we were serious in wanting to buy the Dutch tanks," defence ministry spokesman Hartind Asrin told AFP.

"We had gone to the warehouse to look at them and they were good. The price was also right, at around USD 280 million."

"The Dutch government was agreeable to the deal, but the Dutch parliament kept us waiting. There was still no approval after eight to nine months of waiting, so last week we called off the deal," he said.

Indonesia -- much of which was a Dutch colony until 1945 -- would now buy the 100 tanks from Germany for around the same price, he added.

"Around 15 units are expected to arrive in Indonesia by October this year," Asrin said.

The concerns over Indonesia's rights record stem from the rule of then-dictator Suharto in the 1990s, when special forces were accused of committing abuses in East Timor and Aceh.

Indonesian troops have also been accused of rights violations as they seek to snuff out support for a low-level separatist insurgency in the country's far-flung Papua province.

Indonesia has earmarked 99 trillion rupiah (USD 10.6 billion) from 2010 to 2014 to modernise its defence systems, according to local media reports quoting National Development Planning Minister Armida Alisjahbana.

One third of the budget has been set aside for maintenance with the remaining two thirds for purchasing defence systems and weapons, she was quoted as saying.

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