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Ethiopia to boost arms production: PM

Ethiopia will boost arms production to cut weapons imports and save its dwindling foreign exchange, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has said.

"Our main objective is to reduce our defence expenditure and its pressure on availability of foreign exchange," Meles told reporters late Monday, without giving details.

"In order to do that, we have to reduce our imports and improve our exports. The objective is to take care of our defence requirements, primarily in terms of ammunition and partly in terms of armaments."

Ethiopia currently produces assault rifles, rocket propelled grenades, small arms and hosts an assembly plant to manufacture tanks.

The country's foreign reserves this month stood at 800 million dollars (598 million euros), down from two billion dollars last year.

The Horn of Africa country has one of the largest armies in Africa and last year increased its defence budget by 50 million dollars to 400 million for "stability reasons."

Ethiopia's army is estimated to comprise around 200,000 soldiers and imports arms mainly from China and eastern European countries.

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Publication:AFP Global Edition
Date:Apr 14, 2009
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