Former Israeli ambassador to Germany Avi Primor backed the idea of German troops participating in a possible international peacekeeping mission in Lebanon as long as they were not stationed on the border with Israel.
Three weeks of conflict have left more than 900 Lebanese and 50 Israelis dead
"The troops should be lead by the French," Primor said in an interview for the German television news program Tagesschau on Wednesday. "The French have a real interest in Lebanon, but they need support. And the only support that is valuable to the French is German support."
Former Israeli ambassador to Germany Avi Primor
The German army is already involved in several international operations today -- most notably in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Congo. But the question of its possible deployment near the Israeli border is an extremely sensitive issue in both countries.
"I don't think that the German troops could be stationed on the border between Israel and Germany because of possible frictions. But the German army could be helpful in logistical matters and perhaps also help prevent the influx of weapons into northern Lebanon from Syria."
But in an interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung daily to be published on Friday, Israeli leader Ehud Olmert said his country would have no problem with German soldiers taking part in peacekeeping operations in southern Lebanon.
"I would be very happy if Germany took part," he said. "There is at present no other country that acts more friendly toward Israel than Germany."
The difficulty of assembling such an international peacekeeping force was highlighted when differences between France and the United States forced the United Nations to again postpone a planned meeting Thursday with potential contributors to the mission.
France, which is considered a probable leader of the international force, had refused to attend Thursday's meeting because there was no agreement on a political accord.
"France believes that the conditions for the force's deployment have not been met and so this meeting is premature," French foreign ministry spokesman Denis Simonneau said in Paris.
The UN Security Council is yet to pass a resolution on the current situation in Lebanon
Diplomats said France had distributed a new draft resolution on the Middle East crisis, which was to be discussed at a UN Security Council meeting. It still called for an "immediate cessation of hostilities" but also calls for "full respect" by both sides of the Blue Line, the marker used by the UN to confirm the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanon in May 2000 after a 22-year occupation.
A Security Council resolution on the conflict has been held up by the issue of whether international peacekeepers should move in before an outline of a political settlement between Israel, Hezbollah and the Lebanese government has been arranged.
France, which is a key contributor to the current UN Interim Force in southern Lebanon (UNIFIL), insists that a political settlement must be in place to give any international force a proper mandate to police the region. The US, on the other hand, wants to see the forces in place before a political settlement is reached.
The UN failure to act drew the ire of the Muslim nations.
"They are perplexed in the face of gross double standards applied by the international community," said Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the Turkish head of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC).
Prominent members of the 57-nation bloc, including Iran as well as allies of the US "war on terror" such as Turkey and Pakistan, condemned what they called the "relentless Israeli aggression" and called for an immediate truce.
Beirut under attack
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
Meanwhile, Israeli warplanes thundered over Beirut on Thursday after a six-day lull in an onslaught that Lebanese officials say has killed more than 900 nationals and wounded over 3,000 others over three weeks. Fifty Israelis have died.
Israeli Premier Ehud Olmert said his country would pursue its drive against Hezbollah guerrillas in south Lebanon until an international force of some 15,000 combat-ready troops was deployed there. "There should be overlap in terms of time so that we will pull out and they will come in without a time gap that will allow Hezbollah to rebuild their position in the south of Lebanon," he told The Times of London.