Germany warns of lengthy Libya mission

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Germany's foreign minister warned Sunday that the West risked being dragged into a lengthy mission in Libya, after Berlin abstained on a UN Security Council resolution enabling the use of force.

"It is not because we have some sort of lingering soft spot for (Libyan leader Moamer) Kadhafi's system that we decided not to send German troops to Libya, but because we also have to see the risks of a lengthy mission," Guido Westerwelle said.

"We hope that our fears will not be borne out. We expressly hope that we won't be right. It would be the best thing of all if our fears prove unfounded and we have a ceasefire and a departure of the dictator quickly.

"But when you begin a military operation, you should not just prepare for the best possible outcome but also for other scenarios that are not so favourable," Westerwelle told reporters in Berlin.

Germany, a non-permanent member of the Security Council, abstained in a vote late Thursday to permit "all necessary measures" to establish a no-fly zone, protect civilian areas and impose a ceasefire on Kadhafi's military.

US, British and French forces hammered Libya from the air and sea since late Saturday. Berlin is however not opposed to the operations being coordinated at US Africa Command (AFRICOM) in Stuttgart, Germany.

The UN resolution was supported by the other two big-hitters of the European Union, Britain and France, echoing sharp divisions eight years ago over the US-led invasion of Iraq, opposed by Paris and Berlin but supported by London.

Westerwelle said that Germany was not isolated in the EU over Libya, with for example Poland on its side.

A poll of 501 people in Germany published on Sunday meanwhile found 62 percent in favour of military intervention, but 65 percent opposed to German involvement. Thirty-one percent opposed military action.

© 2011 AFP

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