Ottawa, Oct 23 (AFP) Canada’s prime minister said Tuesday he likely won’t cancel a 2014 blockbuster sale of armored personnel carriers to Saudi Arabia as pressure mounts to hold Riyadh accountable for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“There was a contract signed by the previous (Tory) government that makes it extremely difficult for us to withdraw from that contract without Canadians paying exorbitant penalties,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

“We are looking at our options,” he said.

In an earlier CBC Radio interview Trudeau said that the break penalty could exceed Can$1 billion.

London, Ontario-based manufacturer General Dynamic Land Systems Canada inked the deal in 2014 to supply 928 LAV 6 armored personnel carriers to Saudi Arabia.

Worth Can$15 billion (US$11.5 billion), it was the largest arms deal in Canadian history.

But the contract was scaled back earlier this year, amid protests, to 742, dropping heavy assault versions equipped with cannons that activists and opposition politicians warned could be used against civilians and to help Riyadh wage war in Yemen.

On Monday, Trudeau told parliament: “We have frozen export permits (for arms sales) before when we had concerns about their potential misuse and we will not hesitate to do so again.” After convening senior ministers and officials to discuss Khashoggi’s killing and its “major implications for Canada,” his office issued a statement calling for a “thorough investigation” into the journalist’s death.

“The explanations offered to date (by the Saudis) lack consistency and credibility,” it added. (AFP) PMS

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.