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German lawmakers want debate on supplying arms to Kurds

Iraqi Kurds have hailed a decision by Germany's cabinet to supply them with arms to help in their fight against jihadist militants. But some German politicians are calling for a parliamentary debate on the matter.

German politicians across the bench on Thursday called for a parliamentary debate on the delivery of weapons to crisis regions, a day after the German cabinet said it planned to approve arms deliveries to Iraqi Kurds fighting jihadist militants from the group "Islamic State" (IS).

Bundestag President Norbert Lammert, from Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), told the news portal Spiegel Online that the political importance of such a matter seemed to warrant parliamentary consultations.

In the interview, published on Thursday, Lammert conceded, however, that the planned arms delivery did not necessarily need "mandating by the Bundestag under the law governing parliamentary involvement."

This view was confirmed by Gerda Hasselfeldt, chairwoman of the regional faction of the CDU's Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU).

"It is right for the German government to want to contribute to stopping the barbarity of the terrorist militia IS in northern Iraq," she told the paper Rheinische Post.

'More damage than benefit'

However, the foreign expert of the opposition Green party, Jürgen Trittin, said that both weapons exports and the deployment of German troops to crisis regions need to be mandated by parliament.

"Delivering weapons to war and crisis zones has regularly caused more damage than benefit," he told the Rheinische Post in a guest commentary.

"No one should think that a few weapons are going to solve the problem," he wrote, calling instead for a large humanitarian aid program for northern Iraq.

The head of the Greens parliamentary faction, Katrin Göring-Eckardt, called for a special sitting of the Bundestag in the coming week, before any final decision was made by the German government. She also demanded that Merkel issue a government statement to explain what she called "a change of paradigm" in German foreign affairs policy.

She conceded, however, that formal parliamentary involvement in such a decision did not seem legally necessary.

The government has said it will examine the question of exactly what weapons come into question over the next week.

'Arms needed quickly'

Iraqi Kurds have meanwhile welcomed the cabinet decision to supply them with arms.

Iraq's deputy prime minister, Rowsch Shaways, a Kurd, told German broadcaster Deutschlandfunk on Thursday, however, that it was important that the delivery take place quickly.

Shaways addressed fears that the German weapons could get into the wrong hands or be used in a later fight for an independent Kurdistan, saying the fight against terrorism took priority over everything else.

"What comes later is not the question: the question is, what we do now. Now terrorists are there, and these terrorists must be fought. And to do that we need weapons. These two things should not be confused," he said.

IS has succeeded in taking large swathes of territory, including major cities, in the north of Iraq in a brutal lightning offensive since June.

However, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters have been able to make gains against IS in recent days, including the retaking of the Mosul Dam with the help of US military air cover.

tj/nm (Reuters, epd)

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