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Germany

Opposition calls on German defense minister to ease tensions over Libya

German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere makes his first visit to the UN Security Council on Wednesday. Germany's opposition has called on him to ease tensions with the UN and US over the intervention in Libya.

Thomas de Maiziere in a flak jacket

Thomas de Maiziere wants to avoid Germany's abstention on Libya being focus of UN talks

German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere should avoid further disagreements with Berlin's allies over the military operation in Libya during his meetings with the United Nations and the US government on Wednesday, according to members of the center-left opposition Social Democrats and Greens.

"The entire democratic world has been astonished by Germany's exceptional position," Social Democratic Deputy Parliamentary Chairman Gernot Erler told the regional daily Leipziger Volkszeitung.

"Germany has to maneuver out of its deep isolation," he added.

De Maiziere, however, has called for an end to the debate over Germany's abstention in the UN Security Council and said it would not be a central issue in Wednesday’s meeting, which will mark his first participation in the Security Council as defense minister.

"At a certain point the discussion has to come to an end," he said.

Germany, which currently has a non-permanent rotating seat on the UN Security Council, was the only Western state in the council to abstain from participating in allied military operations in Libya.

The United States, Britain and France all voted for resolution 1973, which authorized the use of force to protect Libyan civilians.

Humanitarian mission

Erler said the Social Democrats are prepared - in principal - to support German participation in a potential European Union military mission designed to secure humanitarian supplies to the besieged city of Misrata.

Erler went on to say that Berlin's "unspeakable 'No' in the UN Security Council" would carry a price for Germany.

German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere

Maiziere will meet with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon

Green Party Defense Expert Omid Nouripour agreed with Erler, saying that Germany now has a duty to demonstrate it can play a dependable role in maintaining global peace.

However, de Maiziere has said he does not expect the UN to ask for an EU military mission, since both the forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and the rebels have allowed humanitarian aid to enter the country.

The EU has made contingency plans for a humanitarian intervention in Libya that envisions the military escort of humanitarian aid with warships. The UN has said an EU military contribution is unnecessary at the present time.

Siege of Misrata

Meanwhile, the siege of Misrata continues despite rebel claims of victory over the weekend. Gadhafi loyalists, who have withdrawn to the outskirts of Misrata, continued to shell the rebel-held port city on Monday and Tuesday.

NATO has sought to redouble its efforts to push Gadhafi from power. Allied warplanes struck a command-and-control center in Gadhafi's compound in Tripoli on Sunday. Libyan officials said the strike was an attempt on the embattled dictator's life.

US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates defended the strike on Gadhafi's compound as legitimate.

"We considered all along command and control centers to be a legitimate target and we have taken those out elsewhere," Gates said.

Momentum

On Tuesday, British and American defense officials met in Washington to discuss how to end the stalemate in Libya.

Burning take from Gadhafi loyalists

NATO airstrikes continue to target Gadhafi forces

British Defense Secretary Liam Fox said progress had been made on the ground.

"We've seen some momentum gained in the last few days," Fox said. "We've seen some progress made in Misrata. And it's very clear that the regime is on the back foot."

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama ordered the delivery of $25 million (17 million euros) in urgent, non-lethal aid to the opposition Transitional National Council. The aid includes medical supplies, boots, uniforms, tents, radios and food.

In the past, Washington has been reluctant to directly support the rebels despite its participation in airstrikes against Gadhafi forces.

Author: Spencer Kimball (Reuters, AFP, AP)
Editor: Rob Turner

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