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Germany

German Lawmakers Extend Lebanon Mission

The German cabinet has extended the army's mission in Lebanon by up to 15 months. Currently 230 German troops are stationed there to prevent arms smuggling.

A helicopter from the Bundeswehr flies arround a UNIFIL naval unit near the coast of Lebanon, Friday, Feb. 29, 2008.

UNIFIL ships will patrol the coasts for 15 more months

The German cabinet has extended the military mission in Lebanon by up to 15 months. Currently 230 German troops are stationed there to prevent arms smuggling.

At the same time, the cabinet decided to reduce the maximum number of troops from 1,400 to 1,200. The German parliament still needs to vote on the measure, which would extend the mission to Dec. 15, 2009.

Avoiding the political trap

Usually, Bundeswehr missions are only extended by a year at a time. This time, the longer time frame is expected to remove the debate over the Lebanon mandate from the agenda of parliamentary elections slated for the coming year.

A German marine says goodbye at port

Marines will stay away from home longer

The 230 German troops currently stationed off the Lebanese coast are part of the United Nations Interim Force (UNIFIL). They have two mine sweeping ships and one supply vessel. Their aim is to prevent the smuggling of arms via the sea to Hezbollah radical Islamists.

The German parliament approved the mission to Lebanon after the 33 day war in Lebanon in the autumn of 2006. A year later, it was exptended to September, 2008.

17 months of command

Germany even held the command over the international fleet for 17 months. In early March, Germany turned over command to Italy, France, Spain and Portugal.

UNIFIL is the longest peacekeeping mission in the history of the United Nations. In 1978 the UN Security Council decidd to station blue-helmet troops in southern Lebanon. Currently, they work to maintain the cease fire on the 121 kilometer "blue line" between Israel and Lebanon.

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