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Ministers: Germany Prepared to Take Part in Lebanon Mission

DW staff (dc)August 14, 2006

If Germany were asked to participate in an international peacekeeping mission in Lebanon, it could not refuse, two top level German ministers said on Monday. Still, the issue is highly sensitive.

A displaced Lebanese family returns home after the ceasefireImage: AP

Germany's ministers of defense and interior affairs said the country would be prepared to contribute to an international peacekeeping force in Lebanon once the United Nations' Security Council specifies a mandate for the operation this week.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel edged around the question in the past, saying it was too early to decide on Germany's possible roles in a peacekeeping force. The question of sending German troops to the Israel-Lebanon border has divided Germany.

Government spokesman Thomas Steg told reporters there would be more clarity over what role Germany would likely fulfill by the end of the week. He added that the cabinet would discuss the matter next week, and that any final decision would be made in September when parliament reconvenes following the summer break.

Steg said that Germany's future role in Lebanon would also be limited by its means.

"We can only provide what we can afford," Steg said.

Ceasefire paves way for mission

Israel Libanon Waffenruhe Soldaten kehren zurück nach Israel
Israeli soldiers ride in a truck after returning from southern Lebanon in northern Israel Monday, Aug. 14Image: AP

Discussion of German participation in a mission to Lebanon became possible again on Monday due to the UN-mandated ceasefire that went into effect in the month-long conflict between Israel and Hezbollah.

Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said Germany must fulfill its international obligations if asked to contribute soldiers to a peacekeeping force.

"We do not want to refuse -- we cannot refuse," Schäuble told ZDF television.

Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung said Germany "could not refuse if everyone asks us to make a contribution."

Support not unanimous

However, political support for sending German soldiers is not unanimous.

The powerful Bavarian sister party of Merkel's Christian Democrats is opposed, saying the issue is too sensitive because of Germany's past.

05.08.2005 jou TT D westerwelle.jpg
Guido WesterwelleImage: dw-tv

The leader of the free market liberal FDP, Guido Westerwelle, is also strongly against German participation.

"If there is one area of the world where German soldiers have no place, it is the Israeli border," Westerwelle told the Saarbrücker Zeitung. "Our history forbids it."

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has given strong backing to the idea of including German troops, but for many Jews in Germany, the idea of sending German soldiers to the Middle East 60 years after the murder of 6 million Jews raises moral questions.

Germany's Central Council of Jews has said the thought that the grandchildren of perpetrators of the Holocaust might find themselves shooting at the grandchildren of the Nazis' victims was impossible to contemplate.

Italy and France are leading the scramble to beef up the small UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) which will be key to making the tenuous cessation of hostilities .Five nations -- Indonesia, Malaysia, Morocco, Spain and Turkey -- have already agreed to contribute troops to the international force, the Lebanese government said on Sunday.