German government faces new calls to send modern tanks to Ukraine

By Markus Wacket and Christian Kraemer

OSLO/BERLIN (Reuters) -France's decision to send light AMX-10 RC armoured combat vehicles to Ukraine prompted renewed calls from within German Chancellor Olaf Scholz's coalition for Berlin to send more modern fighting vehicles to help in the war against Russia.

Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, the head of the parliamentary defence committee and a member of Scholz's junior coalition partner Free Democrats (FDP), called for Berlin to send Marder infantry fighting vehicles and train Ukrainians to use them.

Sara Nanni, the security policy spokesperson from the Greens party, another coalition partner, said Germany should send Marders and Leopard tanks.

Andreas Schwarz, a security-focused lawmaker from Scholz's own Social Democrats party, told Spiegel magazine that the government should "seize the initiative" after the French move.

Scholz has ramped up defence spending and sent aid and weapons to Ukraine since Russia invaded last February, but as other Western powers has sometimes hesitated to send powerful weapons for fear of risking direct conflict with Moscow.

He also made it clear that he did not want to go it alone on sending heavy weapons to Ukraine and that he would coordinate deliveries with other members of the NATO alliance.

During a visit to Oslo, Economy Minister Robert Habeck said the French decision and a possible similar move by the United States would prompt Germany to speed up its own discussions.

"We have always calibrated German arms supplies so that Ukraine received the support it needed at the given moment. That means it is a dynamic process," he said.

"That's why the federal government will now discuss this situation quickly and then make decisions accordingly," Habeck said.

A government spokesperson and the defence ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

"The other partner countries are once again leading the way. Now we can finally get started in the spirit of Franco-German friendship, right? @Chancellor?" Strack-Zimmermann tweeted. "The ball is now in (Berlin's court)."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy thanked France for the AMX-10 RC vehicles, saying other allies should take that as a signal and that "there is no rational reason why Ukraine has not yet been supplied with western tanks."

(Reporting Markus Wacket, Christian Kraemer and Riham Alkousaa; writing by Matthias Williams; editing by Angus MacSwan, William Maclean)

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