he French Defense Ministry has specified that it is selling 100 rocket launchers and 7,000 air-to-ground rockets as part of a $15.8 million arms sale to Nicaragua that has been criticized by the United States.
The rocket launchers, which were not mentioned when the Dec. 21 sale was disclosed Jan. 7, are designed to be fitted to helicopters or observation planes, according to a description given the French newspaper Le Monde. The launchers can be fitted with 68 mm rockets with different kinds of warheads, according to a ministry arms catalog.
The Washington Post said last week that the rockets and rocket launchers were shoulder-fired weapons for use by infantry. According to the official description, however, only air-to-ground rockets are being sold.
The accord also includes two used Alouette helicopters, 45 trucks and two coastal patrol boats each fitted with a pair of 20 mm cannons, the report says.
The Le Monde report is France's first announcement of the complete sale. But French Defense Minister Charles Hernu said he told the U.S. government of the entire list of arms during talks Jan. 7 and 8 in Washington with Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger and Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. after the French magazine L'Express had learned of the previously secret agreement.
Reuter news service reported the following from Managua:
An agreement for East Germany to provide advice and aid in development planning and management of the Nicaraguan economy was signed today by the Nicaraguan planning minister, Commander Henry Ruiz, and East German State Planning Commission President Gerhard Schuerer.
Schuerer told reporters that East Germany had provided more than $100 million for development projects here since the Sandinista revolutionaries took power in 1979