No-fly row rattles Bonn

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The Independent Online
BONN - Germany's floundering coalition slipped deeper into confusion yesterday, when a cabinet minister warned that her party might walk out of the government, in continuing arguments over German participation in the enforcement of a no-fly zone in Bosnia, writes Steve Crawshaw.

Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, the Justice Minister, and a member of the Free Democrats (FDP) - the junior coalition party - told the Suddeutsche Zeitung that the FDP would consider 'jumping out of the government' if the constitutional court in Karlsruhe refused to rule on the legality of German participation in enforcement of the no-fly zone, and if the coalition parties went ahead with their plans to put German crews on military aircraft over Bosnia.

The constitutional court is due to give its ruling today, but the very fact that the bickering coalition has passed the buck on such an important issue - whether German forces can be used outside the Nato area - has been widely criticised.

Whatever verdict the court comes up with is likely only to add to the confusion and irritability, in what Der Spiegel magazine described as 'madhouse Bonn'. The FDP and the Christian Democrats (CDU) theoretically went to the constitutional court to get a fair ruling for their quarrel, but the ruling will do little to resolve the argument.

If the court gives its blessing to out- of-area use, with no change of constitution, then that will make the CDU happy, but would appear to contradict the stance taken by the same coalition government during the Gulf war in 1991, when Bonn insisted German troops could not be used. Equally, if the court says a change of constitution is necessary, that will please the Free Democrats, but will embarrass Chancellor Helmut Kohl's CDU. And, if the court rules the question inadmissible, that will merely increase the bickering between the ruling parties.

LONDON - John Major held a surprise meeting with Mr Kohl in Austria yesterday, PA reports. They discussed Russian reforms, Bosnia, Gatt world trade talks, and other European Community issues.