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Tsipras and Mitsotakis in fierce clash over arms deal

TAGS: Politics

There was an intense clash between the government and the main opposition, New Democracy, in Parliament on Monday afternoon as MPs debated the allegations concerning Defense Minister Panos Kammenos and his role in a attempt to sell ammunition to Saudi Arabia.

New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis accused the government of being "unethical" and said that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is "tied hand and foot" to Kammenos. The premier responded by accusing the opposition of targeting the defense minister in order to destabilize the government.

Mitsotakis asked Tsipras to respond to six questions regarding the 66-million-euro deal to sell anti-tank shells, including why the coalition had accepted the involvement of a middleman in the deal when this has been banned since 2011, why the government allowed the businessman to play a role after the Greek Embassy in Riyadh had suggested the Saudi authorities did not authorize him and what was going to happen to the remaining 200,000 shells after the Saudis indicated that they would take 100,000 rather than the initially agreed 300,000.

"Did you know about all this? Was it approved by you? After all this, do you continue to support Mr Kammenos?" asked the opposition chief, who described the affair as a scandal "of the first order."

Tsipras insisted that the accreditation provided by the Greek businessman involved in the negotiations, Vassilis Papadopoulos, was checked and that Saudi authorities confirmed he had indeed been authorised to conduct the talks.

The prime minister added that communication between the Foreign Ministry in Athens and the embassy in Riyadh revealed he source who suggested to the Greek ambassador that Papadopoulos had not been officially appointed was another Greek, John Sfakianakis, and not a Saudi official. Tsipras suggested that Sfakianakis wanted to present himself as a mediator.

"Mr Mitsotakis, you should apologize to the defense minister, the foreign minister and the diplomatic corps," said Tsipras. "You are not harming the government, but the country."

Tsipras pledged to ask for a parliamentary discussion on tax evasion in the near future.

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