Germany okays Lebanon naval mission

Merkel: Germany obliged to join effort to help stabilize region.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
September 20, 2006 14:47
1 minute read.
Germany okays Lebanon naval mission

germany UN Peace 298. (photo credit: )

German lawmakers voted by a large majority Wednesday to send warships to the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon with a mandate to stop arms shipments to Hizbullah. The measure passed by a vote of 442 to 152 with five abstentions. Germany will send up to 2,400 service personnel and lead a multinational naval force patrolling Lebanon's coast to reinforce the cease-fire that ended Hizbullah's monthlong war with Israel. Chancellor Angela Merkel's government has a large majority in the Bundestag lower house and an easy passage was expected. Still, some lawmakers voted no because of misgivings linked to Germany's Nazi past and the Holocaust. Before the vote, Merkel urged approval, saying that stabilizing Lebanon could open the door to a wider Mideast peace process and help stem Islamic terrorism. She argued that Germany's history meant it was obliged to join the effort to help stabilize the region because Israel as well as Lebanon has given their approval. That was "a signal of trust in Germany, in the country in whose name the destruction of the Jews and World War II began," Merkel said. "We should take such a signal seriously." To defuse opposition at home, Merkel has ruled out sending combat troops in an attempt to ensure that German soldiers cannot get caught up in any confrontation with Israeli forces. Still, some lawmakers say Germany's moral obligation to support Israel means it cannot be neutral in the Middle East and that it should limit its involvement to civilian aid and diplomacy. "If we expose ourselves militarily, we are part of the problem and we endanger our role as mediator between Israel and the Arab world," Lothar Bisky, a leader of the opposition Left Party, said in parliament. Merkel reiterated her pledge to use Berlin's six-month presidency of the European Union, starting in January, to press for a broader Middle East peace process. She also said Germany would continue to try to draw Syria into the process, and called on the United States to renew its engagement. "At no point must Europe think it can do this alone," she said. "Despite Europe's growing importance, little or nothing can be done in this region without the United States." Germany is expected to send eight ships, including two frigates equipped with helicopters, to the eastern Mediterranean. France, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands are also sending warships to join the UN force.


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