A week before a key NATO summit in Lisbon, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has reiterated his demand for a full withdrawal of all nuclear weapons stored in Germany.
"We continue to support the goal of withdrawal," Westerwelle said during a parliamentary debate on Thursday in Berlin. Disarmament is going to be a "key issue" for Germany at the Lisbon meeting, the foreign minister said.
There are no official figures about the number of nuclear weapons stationed on German soil, but it is believed that perhaps 10 to 20 nuclear warheads from the US arsenal are stockpiled at the Buechel air base in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate in southwestern Germany.
Government leaders and heads of state of the 28 NATO member countries meet in the Portuguese capital next week Friday to discuss a major strategic overhaul of the military alliance.
A key element of NATO's new strategy to be decided upon in Lisbon is a European missile-defense system. In what Westerwelle called an "historic gesture," Russia will be involved in the discussions.
"We don't want a Europe with areas of differing security levels," Westerwelle said. "We want to improve our security alongside, not in confrontation with Russia."
Westerwelle defends cabinet colleague
The foreign minister used his address in parliament to also set straight a cornerstone of German military doctrine.
Westerwelle rejected accusations that Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg was revamping the German armed forces to fight what the opposition called "economic wars."
"We will continue the culture of military restraint. Any other assumption is defamation that has nothing to do with reality," the minister said.
Westerwelle's comments were viewed as indirect support for Defense Minister Guttenberg, who recently made controversial remarks to the effect that Germany should align its security policies with economic interests, like other countries do.
In response, the Green party parliamentary leader, Juergen Trittin, accused Guttenberg of pursuing "gunboat diplomacy."
Defending his position, Guttenberg told parliament on Thursday that the strategy was contained in a government White Paper from 2006 when the opposition Social Democrats were still in a grand coalition with Chancellor Merkel's Christian Democrats.
"There were no cries of outrage then," Guttenberg said, "but now comes the great wave of indignation."
The issue of economic intervention is also expected to be on the agenda of the NATO summit next week.
Author: Gregg Benzow (dpa, AP)
Editor: Rob Turner