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Merkel: weapons to Iraq are a 'chance' to stop terrorists

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has defended her military aid plan to northern Iraq. However, her critics accuse her not only of a poorly-timed announcement, but also going against Germany’s anti-war stance.

Speaking before the Bundestag – the Lower House of the German parliament – on Monday, Chancellor Merkel said it was necessary to send weapons to northern Iraq.

"Our own security interests are threatened," Merkel told German lawmakers.

The previous day, her government confirmed it would supply Kurdish forces battling "Islamic State" (IS) terrorists with

70 million euros ($92 million) worth of high-end military equipment

. The roughly 4,000 Kurdish Peshmerga fighters are to receive anti-tank missiles, machine guns, protective gear and communications equipment among other supplies.

The government had deliberated "carefully" over the decision, the German chancellor added.

Sturmgewehr G3

As part of its arms delivieries, Germany is to send 8,000 G3 assault rifles and 2 million rounds of ammunition

"Right now, we currently have the chance to rescue people's lives and to hinder further mass murder in Iraq. Right now, we have the chance to hinder [Islamic State terrorists] from creating another safe haven. We must take advantage of this chance," she said.

The speech came ahead of a parliamentary vote on Monday. Merkel's conservative Christian Democrat-led political bloc and its left-leaning Social Democrat (SPD) coalition partner, led by Sigmar Gabriel, backed the move.

German Left against decision

The parliamentary group leader of Germany's Left party, Gregor Gysi, strongly criticized Merkel's government for following the US and the EU without UN approval. While he said the IS should be prohibited in Germany, he dismissed the way in which the government had proceeded in the Iraq crisis.

"The [United Nations] must make the decision and not the USA or individual nations," Gysi said, referring to the German government's announcement that it would join EU member states in helping northern Iraq.

Bundestagsdebatte 01.09.2014 Gregor Gysi

Left leader Gregor Gysi wants to end arms exports

He also criticized Merkel's government for supporting sanctions against Russia in reaction to the conflict with Ukraine. Had they pursued a path of diplomacy, they would have had a better chance of gaining Russian support on the UN Security Council for a situation like Iraq, the German opposition leader emphasized.

Gysi also pointed to the

poor timing of the debate

, which fell on the

75th anniversary of Germany invading Poland

. His critique was not the first, as the move signals a major policy shift. Berlin has long been reluctant to join military operations overseas as a direct consequence of the nation's role in WWII.

kms/hc (dpa, epd)

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