German MPs approve air crews for Afghanistan

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German lawmakers approved on Friday the sending of up to 300 crew members to operate surveillance planes in Afghanistan in a bid to free up NATO resources enforcing the no-fly zone in Libya.

In the vote in the Bundestag lower house, 407 MPs voted in favour, 113 against and 32 abstained.

Germany is the third-largest provider of troops to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan in a mission that polls show is deeply unpopular at home.

Berlin has decided not to participate in the military action against Moamer Khadafi's regime and abstained on the United Nations resolution that established the no-fly zone.

As a result, Germany on Tuesday withdrew its warships from a NATO operation in the Mediterranean that was enforcing a UN-mandated arms embargo on Libya.

NATO agreed to deploy the Airborne Warning and Control System planes, which are fitted with long-range radar allowing them to detect other aircraft and prevent mid-air collisions, to Afghanistan in January.

The alliance asked Berlin last week to supply the air crews.

Some 17 countries are participating in the AWACS base, based in Geilenkirchen, in western Germany.

© 2011 AFP

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