Germany unlikely to send troops

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The Independent Online
KLAUS KINKEL, the German Foreign Minister, yesterday sought to dampen speculation that his country was about to commit forces to military action sanctioned by the United Nations in the former Yugoslavia.

In an interview with the Berliner Kurier newspaper, Mr Kinkel said that such a move would be both unconstitutional and unthinkable in the light of what the Nazis had done in the region during the Second World War.

At the same time, he renewed his call for speedy constitutional change which would enable Germany to participate fully in future UN missions.

The prospect of a UN force safeguarding humanitarian aid convoys to Bosnia has brought the question of Germany's role to the top of the political agenda. Several leading politicians have called for the full participation of German forces.

Chancellor Helmut Kohl, however, has been reluctant to go so far. In interviews over the weekend, Mr Kohl said that he fully supported the proposal to use force to protect humanitarian convoys, but stopped short of saying that German soldiers could be committed to such a cause.

'The legal position is still too unclear and the issue far too sensitive for the government to be able to take a quick decision on it,' a Bonn source said yesterday. 'As things stand at the moment, it is extremely unlikely that our forces will be deployed in potential situations of conflict.'

Under its constitution, Germany is barred from using force except in the case of self-defence or to come to the aid of a Nato partner that has been attacked.

According to the opposition Social Democrats (SPD), the government's decision earlier this summer to send a destroyer and three surveillance aircraft to the Adriatic to help in the imposition of UN-imposed sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro was in itself unconstitutional.

Herta Daubler-Gmelin, a deputy leader of the SPD, yesterday said the multi-national fleet in the Adriatic 'is of no use to the people of Yugoslavia'. She also expressed confidence that despite government assurances that the German forces there cannot be used in combat, the country's supreme court will rule that their deployment was unconstitutional.

Despite the hard line taken by Ms Daubler-Gmelin and many of her colleagues, the government is confident that the SPD will soon come round to accepting constitutional change.

As Chancellor Kohl complained at the weekend: 'The reunited Germany must take on its responsibilities. It is not on that we are sitting in the middle of Europe and simply telling others what they should do.'