Germany Insists on Ceasefire Before Any Troops Go to Lebanon | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 25.07.2006
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Germany Insists on Ceasefire Before Any Troops Go to Lebanon

Before a larger meeting planned for Wednesday, defense ministers from Germany, France and Poland said Hezbollah and Israel need to lay down their weapons before an international force could be sent to the region.

The ministers said the first step was stopping attacks from both sides

The ministers said the first step was stopping attacks from both sides

The defense ministers of Berlin, Paris and Warsaw called Tuesday for a stop to hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah before an international force is deployed.

"We call for an end to the violence and for an agreement that would allow an international force to be deployed," French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie told a press conference held jointly with her Polish and German counterparts after a meeting Tuesday outside Krakow in the southern city of Wieliczka.

As far as Germany is concerned, Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung said it was too early to say if the circumstances are right for German troops to take part in any forces sent to the Middle East by the United Nations or European Union.

"With or without German troops, the question of whether there is a peace mission will only come once there is a cease-fire," he said

Most Germans against sending troops

Zerstörung im Libanon

Many Germans don't want to see their troops here

Earlier this week, however, Jung said Germany "could not refuse" a peace mission under the auspices of the UN and EU.

Jung is getting some support from other politicians in Berlin regarding a possible Bundeswehr deployment to the Middle East, but 53 percent of Germans said they were against German troops' involvement, according to a poll in Der Spiegel news magazine.

Speaking for the trio, Alliot-Marie reiterated the importance of getting Israel and Hezbollah to lay down their weapons before the international community sends troops and described the type of mission she could envision.

"This force can only intervene after such an agreement has been reached," she said. "The mission of the force should be explicitly defined, and it should be given significant equipment and legal means to do its job."

Major parties to convene in Rome

Alliot-Marie also expressed serious concern for the situation in Lebanon, where she said, "Civilians are the main victims and the infrastructure has been seriously hit."

A larger, one-day crisis meeting of 15 countries as well as top officials from the UN, the EU and the World Bank in Rome on Wednesday will attempt to hash out an international response to the nearly two weeks of violence that has racked the Israel-Lebanon border.

Congo also on agenda in Poland

Kongo - Bundeswehr Einsatz

German soldiers are in Congo to ensure safe elections

The German, French and Polish defense ministers, whose countries are grouped in the so-called Weimar Triangle, also discussed the possibility of setting up a tri-nation "tactical group made up of 1,500 men, which would be operational by 2013," Polish Defense Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said.

They also discussed the role being played by soldiers from their countries as part of an EU force in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), to help ensure security during the vast African state's first elections since those held on independence from Belgium more than 40 years ago.

French, German and Polish soldiers form the biggest contingents in the EU force in DRC, which numbers around 2,000 soldiers.

The EU force will provide back-up to the 17,000-strong United Nations peacekeeping mission in DRC known as MONUC during the period encompassing the elections, the first round of which is due to be held on Sunday.

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