Merkel noncommittal on German role in Lebanon

31st July 2006, Comments 0 comments

31 Julz 2006, BERLIN - Germany is better placed to train Lebanon's police and army than to commit troops to a peacekeeping force, Chancellor Angela Merkel said in an interview released Saturday. She told the newspaper Bild am Sonntag that the capacity of the German armed forces to take part in overseas operations was "to a large extent exhausted." "We are in the Congo, we provide the bulk of the forces in the Balkans and we have our biggest contingent in Afghanistan," the chancellor said in reference to cu

31 Julz 2006

BERLIN - Germany is better placed to train Lebanon's police and army than to commit troops to a peacekeeping force, Chancellor Angela Merkel said in an interview released Saturday. 

She told the newspaper Bild am Sonntag that the capacity of the German armed forces to take part in overseas operations was "to a large extent exhausted." 

"We are in the Congo, we provide the bulk of the forces in the Balkans and we have our biggest contingent in Afghanistan," the chancellor said in reference to current missions. 

Merkel did not expressly rule out sending German troops to Lebanon, but said the question did not arise at the moment because "we don't even know what sort of mandate there will be."

It was up to the United Nations Security Council first of all to spell out the terms for any proposed force for Lebanon, government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm told Deutsche Presse-Agentur.

The chancellor spoke of "a whole range of responsibilities that Germany can undertake within the scope of international efforts to achieve a workable, peaceful solution" to the crisis in Lebanon.

These included providing "assistance in training Lebanon's police and army" as well aiding a reconciliation process with the goal of bringing long-term political stability to the country. 

Calls have been growing to send an international peacekeeping force to southern Lebanon where Israeli forces have been fighting Hezbollah guerrillas. 

Merkel said it was "a historical responsibility of German policy to steadfastly support Israel's right to exist." 

The present crisis in the region, she said, "was started by Hezbollah. Hezbollah has fired rockets at Israel for months and has kidnapped Israeli soldiers." 

She described last week's Israeli attack on a United Nations post in southern Lebanon that left four UN soldiers dead as "very regrettable," but noted that Israeli Premier Ehud Olmert had apologized for it. 

The memory of the Holocaust has started a debate in Germany over involvement in a Lebanon peace force. 

Merkel's coalition of Christian Democrats and Social Democrats are divided on the issue, while the three main opposition parties - the Greens, the Liberal Free Democrats and the Left party are opposed to a German role.

DPA

Subject: German news, Lebanon, Israel, Merkel

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