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Germany revokes permit to deliver exercise simulator to Russia, nixing deal already put on ice

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BERLIN - The German government said Monday it has revoked permission for the delivery of a field exercise simulator to the Russian military, blocking a deal it had already put on hold and going beyond a European Union arms embargo that allows existing contracts to be fulfilled.

Defence and auto parts company Rheinmetall AG's export permit for the facility was revoked "in light of EU sanctions" imposed over Russia's support for rebels in Ukraine, the Economy Ministry said in an emailed response to a query on the matter.

The government had already put the deal on ice when Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March.

Rheinmetall did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

The arms embargo approved by the European Union last week doesn't apply to existing contracts. However, Vice Chancellor and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel has been critical of France's insistence on going ahead with the delivery of two warships to Russia.

Germany's government said in April that it wasn't authorizing any exports of military goods to Russia and 69 export applications were on hold. None of those involved "weapons of war" such as tanks and missiles, it said.

The decision to block the Rheinmetall deal comes as Gabriel, whose centre-left Social Democrats entered Chancellor Angela Merkel's government in December, seeks more broadly to restrict German arms exports.

He and his party said Merkel's previous centre-right government was too ready to export weapons to sensitive areas, criticizing deals with Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, among others.

A senior conservative ally of Merkel, Horst Seehofer, last month questioned Gabriel's approach, arguing that clamping down on exports could cause German firms to close or move abroad.

Gabriel countered in an interview with ARD television that arms sales are, "if you don't take care and act very cautiously, very quickly a deal with death."

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