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German finance minister calls for option to deploy troops in wake of Cologne attacks

In light of the New Year attacks in Cologne, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has demanded the option of deploying Bundeswehr troops at home. He also reiterated his support for Chancellor Angela Merkel.

In an interview with Saturday's edition of the "Süddeutsche Zeitung," Schäuble said Berlin must ask itself why "under clear legal rules in support of the police, practically every other country in Europe can turn to its armed forces," except for Germany.

"A legal basis for domestic military missions must be created," Schäuble told the paper, adding that Germans expect the state to ensure security.

"For this you need more police and enhanced legal foundations for the police and intelligence services," he said.

"The situation may arise, however, where both federal and state police forces are exhausted," he added. "Every other country in the world would deploy soldiers in an emergency."

Any deployment of the Bundeswehr within Germany is subject to extremely strict constitutional limitations, with its role described in the German Basic Law as absolutely defensive.

Refugee debate

The finance minister's comments

came amid ongoing uproar in Germany over reports of scores of sexual assaults

in Cologne at the city's New Year's Eve celebrations.

Witnesses at the city's main train station and iconic cathedral described women being groped, as well as subjected to lewd insults and robbery. In one instance, a rape was reported. Most of the culprits were said to have been of a North African or Middle Eastern appearance.

Support for Merkel

The reports have also renewed criticism of Chancellor Angela Merkel's open-door policy on refugees and migrants, with some 1.1 million new asylum seekers registered in the last year alone. Following criticism from within Merkel's own Christian Democrats (CDU), Schäuble renewed his support for the chancellor.

"I support with conviction what the chancellor has said: We must solve the problem at the external borders," Schäuble told the "Süddeutsche."

Like Merkel, Schäuble called for

a solution to the refugee crisis by means of better controls and cooperation

with neighboring countries, adding that action in Europe was "still too slow."

'No one satisfied'

The finance minister also warned his fellow CDU party members against criticizing Merkel's refugee policy.

"Of course, no one is satisfied with the situation," Schäuble said, admitting that there had been "very intensive discussions" within the CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union. The people want us "to solve the problems the best we can," he said.

Schäuble's comments published Saturday were far from comparable to those heard at the end of last year when he called for a strict limit on the number of family reunifications among refugees and compared Germany's unprecedented influx of asylum seekers to an "avalanche."

ksb/sms (AFP, dpa)

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