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Lebanon Requests German Naval Patrol

DW staff / AFP (sp)September 11, 2006

Germany on Monday said Lebanon has asked for the German navy to take part in the expanded United Nations force in the war-ravaged country, but its mandate still needs to be defined.

Germany's peacekeeping mission in Lebanon is still surrounded by uncertaintyImage: AP

"Lebanon has made the request to the United Nations at the weekend and it has been passed on to us," government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm told a press briefing.

Wilhelm said Berlin was now waiting for Lebanon and the United Nations to finalize an "operations plan and the rules of engagement" before it sends ships to the Middle East.

Germany has offered to lead the naval component of the mission and is expected to contribute 2,000 men, but the Bundeswehr's intervention has been mired in confusion about its mandate and timing.

Berlin frustrated by uncertain mandate

Deutsche Marinesoldaten
Germany's navy is still waiting for sailing orders to LebanonImage: picture-alliance/dpa

Berlin last week delayed an announcement about the size of its contribution because of tension between Lebanon and Israel about what should come first -- ending the sea blockade of Lebanon or deploying German vessels.

Israel on Friday lifted the blockade it imposed on its northern neighbor at the start of its 34-day offensive to rout Hezbollah militia in southern Lebanon.

This paved the way for Beirut to make a formal request for the deployment of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) along its coast to prevent weapons being smuggled to Hezbollah by sea.

But German politicians and the press said Beirut and Berlin were now struggling to agree about whether foreign forces could enter Lebanon's waters.

Volker Kauder, the parliamentary leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, said Germany wanted to be sure that its navy could stop and search any suspect ships off Lebanon's coast.

"We need a clear mandate that will give us the possibility to fulfill our orders. And this means a mandate to control the coastline and to stop arms smuggling," he said.

The party's parliamentary spokesman for defense, Bernd Siebert, said Beirut did not want to allow foreign ships within seven miles (13 kilometers) of its coast, rendering the planned intervention "pointless."

Possible compromise?

German daily Die Welt reported in an advance extract of its Tuesday edition that Germany was mulling a compromise whereby its ships could pursue suspect vessels into Lebanese waters only if asked by


Libanon Fischer Boote in der Hafenstadt Sidon
Lebanon's coastline has been devastated by the warImage: AP

The Süddeutsche Zeitung also said that Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora was insisting that Lebanon would patrol its own seaways, but should be able to fall back onto the help of the UN forces.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has appeared increasingly impatient with the difficulty in reaching a deal with Beirut. She said last week that without a strong mandate there was no justification for sending German troops into danger.

The United Nations said at the weekend it hoped an agreement could be reached to allow German vessels to deploy under UN command within two weeks.

In the meanwhile a UN-backed flotilla of French, Greek and Italian ships have begun patrolling the Lebanese coast on a temporary basis.

German opposition resists Mideast mission

There is considerable resistance within German political circles to sending the navy to the Middle East.

The Left Party, consisting of Social Democrat defectors and former communists, has warned that it would open Germany to terrorist attacks, coming just weeks after a failed plot to blow up German trains. Four Lebanese suspects and a Syrian have been charged in connection with the plot.

The liberal Free Democrats have for their part warned that the mission could compromise Germany's neutrality in the Middle East.

Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden have also offered to contribute patrol vessels to UNIFIL. These nations have received the same request from Lebanon via the United Nations as Germany has, defense spokesman Thomas Raabe said.