US wants German troops in Lebanon

German FM: Talk of negotiations for captured soldiers' release is premature.

regev 298.88 ch10 (photo credit: Channel 10)
regev 298.88 ch10
(photo credit: Channel 10)
The United States is trying to arrange for German troops to patrol the border between Syria and Lebanon to prevent arms smuggling. No agreement on German patrols has yet been finalized between Washington and Berlin, as Germany is still waiting for Lebanon's reaction to the proposal, Israel Radio reported. On Friday, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan announced that Syrian President Bashar Assad had agreed to deploy a battalion to secure the border between the two countries. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Friday it was premature to talk of negotiations for the release of captured Israeli soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, but that Germany would be prepared to help in mediation if asked. Speaking at a joint news conference with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in Tel Aviv, Steinmeier said he had raised the issue of the two Israelis with Lebanese officials. The capture of the soldiers in a cross-border raid on July 12 sparked a massive Israeli incursion into southern Lebanon and 34 days of bitter fighting. "In my talks with the government in Lebanon I discussed this issue of the abductees," he said, speaking in German translated into Hebrew. "I don't know if the time is ripe, here in Israel and in Lebanon to start the process, but if we are asked to help we would be interested in doing so." He did not elaborate. Germany's intelligence chief, Ernst Uhrlau, who helped mediate a 2004 prisoner swap between Israel and Hizbullah, visited Lebanon last week but details of his trip were not made public.