Boutros-Ghali seeks troops from Bonn

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The Independent Online
THE UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, yesterday appealed to Germany to allow its troops to take part in international action, under the United Nations flag. Until now, German politicians have argued that the constitution makes it impossible for Germany to take part in any military action abroad.

Mr Boutros-Ghali, on a two-day visit to Bonn, said that without Germany's contribution to all forms of UN activity - including 'peace-making, peace-keeping, and peace-building' - it would be impossible for the UN to do its job properly.

He insisted: 'Like it or dislike it, we're all in the same boat. We need your participation now.' Mr Boutros-Ghali held talks yesterday with Helmut Kohl, the German Chancellor, and his Foreign Minister, Klaus Kinkel, at which the question of German participation in UN operations was high on the agenda.

Mr Kohl's Christian Democrats (CDU), have been more sympathetic to the prospect of further involvement than their coalition partner, the Free Democrats (FDP), of which Mr Kinkel is a member. The FDP has repeatedly insisted on the need for a change in the constitution, before any international involvement of Bundeswehr can be authorised. The CDU believes that constitutional change may not be necessary; Karl Lamers, the CDU's foreign affairs spokesman, argued yesterday that the demands of the UN Charter should take precedence over the German constitution.

The FDP is, in theory, ready to support further action. Mr Kinkel said yesterday that the talks with Mr Boutros-Ghali had confirmed him in the opinion that Germany would 'lose international credibility', if the problem of German troops - which Mr Kinkel has described as the 'key question' of German foreign policy today - is not resolved.

Thus, Mr Boutros-Ghali was really addressing his remarks to the opposition Social Democrats (SPD), and to German public opinion. The German public has shown no eagerness for German troops to be sent abroad, and the SPD has been wary, at best. Further talks are to be held this week between leaders of the government coalition, and the SPD.

Mr Boutros-Ghali emphasised that he did not wish to be seen to interfere in Germany's domestic disputes: 'It's an internal problem you have. But we're hoping you'll be able to overcome the constitutional problem. Even more important than this is to have the political will to play an important role in international affairs.'

The Secretary-General acknowledged that German troops were 'probably not suitable' for some areas of conflict, including the former Yugoslavia. But he insisted that fears within Germany that it is inappropriate to send troops abroad were unjustified. He welcomed Bonn's offer to send army technical units to Somalia, an offer seen by some as a halfway house towards greater German involvement in UN operations.