German UN abstention 'respected': Berlin

18th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

Germany's international partners respect and understand Berlin's decision to abstain from a United Nations resolution on a no-fly zone over Libya, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Friday.

"I can assure you that we had respect and understanding for our position and our decision even from those that voted in favour" of the resolution permitting "all necessary measures" to establish the no-fly zone, Westerwelle said.

He added: "I have great understanding for the motives of those that voted for the resolution and the military action."

"But after weighing up the risks... we came to the conclusion that German soldiers would not contribute to the intervention in Libya and therefore we decided to abstain for this reason, and for other reasons," the minister said.

Speaking later in parliament, Westerwelle warned that any military intervention would result in civilian deaths.

"There is no so-called surgical strike. Any military intervention will cause civilian casualties," he said.

Referring explicitly to Iraq and Afghanistan, he called on the international community to "learn the lessons from recent history."

The UN Security Council voted Thursday by 10-0 to establish the no-fly zone, protect civilian areas and impose a ceasefire on strongman Moamer Kadhafi's military.

Five countries on the 15-strong council abstained, including permanent members China and Russia, who did not use their veto power. India and Brazil also abstained in addition to Germany.

"The decision was not taken lightly," Westerwelle told deputies.

"We are not in a position to do away with dictators everywhere in the world. But we are in a position to raise our voice and make it clear to people that we are on their side," he said.

Responding to accusations that Germany was isolated within the European Union and the NATO alliance with its actions, Westerwelle said the decision to deploy troops was one the country alone could take.

And he reiterated Germany's position that Kadhafi must go and that he must cease waging war on his own people. He said Berlin had established contact with the Libyan opposition, which he considered "important partners."

"The alternative to military action is not inaction," he said, adding that Berlin had pushed for stronger sanctions on the Kadhafi regime both in Brussels at the European Union level and in New York at the UN level.

© 2011 AFP

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