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Germany Wants to Aid Lebanon Peace Mission

DW staff / dpa (ncy)August 16, 2006

Chancellor Angela Merkel and the leaders of the parties in her ruling coalition government said on Wednesday they had agreed in principle on contributing to a UN force in Lebanon.

Berlin says it will help, if it's wantedImage: AP

Germany could help to secure the border between Lebanon and Syria, "particularly from the sea," the coalition partners said in a statement after meeting on the sidelines of the Wagner opera festival in Bayreuth.

The German press reported this week that Germany might deploy its navy to secure the seaways off the coast of Lebanon and Israel.

But Merkel and her coalition partners announced no final decision on contributing to the expanded, 15,000-strong peacekeeping force in Lebanon provided for in a UN resolution adopted on Friday to end the fighting. They listed Germany's priorities as helping to implement the resolution, to broker lasting peace in the Middle East and to rebuild Lebanon in the wake of the month-long Israeli offensive against Hezbollah militia.

Germany wants to help

"The coalition agrees that Germany wants to make a contribution to solving the political problems in the Middle East," they said in a joint statement.

Koalitionsverhandlungen - Merkel und Müntefering
Merkel, Müntefering and Co, seem to be in agreementImage: dpa

The meeting consisted of Merkel, who leads the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Edmund Stoiber, who heads the CDU's Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, Social Democratic Party leader Kurt Beck and Deputy Chancellor Franz Müntefering, also a Social Democrat.

Government spokesman Thomas Steg said earlier that Germany wanted to know more about the mandate of the UN force before committing itself to contributing soldiers.

"Many questions are still open. Germany is prepared to make a contribution if there is a clear definition. It depends on certain factors and these factors are still unclear," he said.

Difficult subject

A decision is widely expected to be made this week. Several German ministers have said that the country cannot refuse to take part in the peacekeeping force, but the issue is fraught because of the country's Nazi past.

Germany's Central Council of Jews has warned that sending troops to the Middle East 60 years after the murder of six million Jews poses a moral dilemma.

A ceasefire took effect in Lebanon on Monday, following a UN resolution which paves the way for the deployment of the international peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon.