German naval task force leaves for Middle East

21st September 2006, Comments 0 comments

21 September 2006, WILHELMSHAVEN, GERMANY - A German naval task force left Thursday for the eastern Mediterranean to join a United Nations peacekeeping mission for Lebanon. Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung was among those at the quayside to bid farewell to the flotilla before it set sail from the North Sea port of Wilhelmshaven. "This is an historic day for the German Navy because it it the first time that it is making an active contribution to the cause of peace in the Middle East," Jung told the sailors

21 September 2006

WILHELMSHAVEN, GERMANY - A German naval task force left Thursday for the eastern Mediterranean to join a United Nations peacekeeping mission for Lebanon.

Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung was among those at the quayside to bid farewell to the flotilla before it set sail from the North Sea port of Wilhelmshaven.

"This is an historic day for the German Navy because it it the first time that it is making an active contribution to the cause of peace in the Middle East," Jung told the sailors.

Some 1,000 officers and men are on board the two frigates, two supply ships and four patrol boats that make up the task force.

Its departure came a day after parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of what is the first military deployment by Germany in the Middle East since World War II.

The task force will patrol Lebanese waters together with ships from the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Norway to prevent the smuggling of weapons to Hezbollah militants based in Lebanon.

The defence minister warned that the mission was not without risks, but said it was necessary to further the cause of peace and was also in Germany's own interests.

Switching from German to English, Jung also welcomed Danish participation in naval operation, which is being undertaken under the auspices of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

"I am pleased to note that we are undertaking this difficult mission together, underlining our close and successful naval cooperation," the minister said.

Three Danish ships with a total crew of 150 left together with the German vessels on the 10-day trip to the eastern Mediterranean.

The flotilla is due to reach the Lebanese coast by early October and replace ships from Italy, France, and Greece who have been on patrol pending the arrival of the German vessels.

Germany has set aside a total of 2,400 troops for the mission under a mandate lasting until August 31, 2007, but which Jung said would, in all likelihood, be extended.

Rear Admiral Andreas Krause will be in charge of the mission, which will patrol an area from the Lebanese coastline extending out 50 nautical miles.

The UN is deploying a 15,000-member peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon under a ceasefire agreement which last month ended fighting between Israel and Hezbollah.

A photographer at the quayside watching the departure of the task force slipped and fell five metres into the water. He was rescued unharmed.

DPA

Subject: German news

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