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Germany

German foreign minister likens nuclear-weapons threat to global warming

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has called for a global ban on nuclear weapons following the release of a disarmament report. Opposition parties renewed calls for the removal of US warheads from Germany.

A nuclear mushroom cloud

Westerwelle spoke of a need for greater urgency

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle stressed an urgent need for the world to focus on nuclear disarmament, declaring the task as important to humanity as acting against global warming.

Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle

The foreign minister favors the removal of US weapons from Germany

"We have to prevent access to nuclear weapons becoming easier," Westerwelle told the German parliament on Friday, stressing the importance of preventing access to such weapons by "tyrants and terrorists."

Westerwelle acknowledged that 2010 was a good year for disarmament following the presentation of the annual disarmament report in parliament. He urged that extensive efforts be made to outlaw nuclear arms around the world.

"We cannot tolerate any hold-ups on this issue of survival for humanity," he said, adding that the issue would have to be debated in the UN Security Council if no progress were made towards a global arms ban at the international disarmament talks in Geneva.

After the presentation of the report, which was concerned with both nuclear and conventional weapons, the matter was debated by the various parties.

'No effective reduction'

The Social Democrat (SPD) disarmament representative Uta Zapf complained that, despite apparent progress, there had been no effective reduction in the military significance of nuclear weapons. Zapf also called for the withdrawal of American nuclear weapons from German soil.

The Green party also called for a nuclear-weapon-free Germany, with member Agnes Malczak arguing that disarmament should take place on a worldwide basis in conjunction with the phasing out of civilian nuclear power.

Cluster bomblets

There were calls for a ban on investment in companies that make cluster bombs

Both the Greens and SPD called for a legal prohibition under German law on financial investment in firms that manufacture weapons banned under international agreements, such as cluster bombs and anti-personnel landmines.

Meanwhile, the parliamentary leader of the Left Party, Gregor Gysi, claimed it was "a scandal" that Germany was the third-largest exporter of weapons after Russia and the United States.

Westerwelle has himself expressed a desire for US nuclear warheads to be removed from Germany, claiming they are a relic of the Cold War.

There are no official figures about the number of nuclear weapons stationed on German soil, but it is believed that perhaps 10 to 20 nuclear warheads from the US arsenal are stockpiled at the Büchel air base in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate in south-western Germany.

Authors: Christian Nathler, Richard Connor (dpa, AFP, KNA)
Editor: Nicole Goebel

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