The Bosnia Crisis: Germany rules out Balkans war role

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The Independent Online
WITH the prospect of Western military intervention in the former Yugoslavia looming ever closer, Germany yesterday categorically ruled out its participation in any actions that may be planned.

Volker Ruhe, Germany's Defence Minister, said that a military strike 'would not solve the problems' of the region and that the deployment of Bundeswehr (German army) troops 'does not at the moment come into the question'.

Rather than contemplating military force, Mr Ruhe said that the world community should instead seek to 'apply the thumbscrews' on the warring parties 'from outside', for instance by toughening the existing UN sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro. Other German politicians, however, said that it was time force was used to end the conflict. Andreas von Bulow, a defence expert of the opposition Social Democrats, urged a 'massive air strike' to secure sovereignty in the air.

Accusing the warring parties of having a 'deliberate policy of mass expulsions', he said: 'We have got to tackle the problem head-on and bring it to an end. It will probably only be possible through military means.' Despite calling for action, however, Mr von Bulow warned strongly against getting involved in a land war.

Unusually for a Social Democrat, Mr von Bulow said he would support German involvement in a UN-sanctioned action. But the majority of his party and, indeed, the government, is not prepared to go so far, arguing that under its constitution, Germany is barred from deploying forces unless they are to defend the country itself or a Nato ally that has been attacked.

Ever since the Gulf war last year, when Germany was unable to send forces to the region, Chancellor Helmut Kohl has campaigned vigorously for an amendment to the law which would allow Germany to take part in such UN- backed actions.

In an interview with Die Zeit newspaper this week, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the Secretary- General of the United Nations, said that he, too, would welcome German participation in an as yet non-existent UN rapid deployment force that could be used to resolve conflicts throughout the world.

Mr Ruhe said yesterday, however, that although Germany wanted to assume greater responsibilities internationally in the long-run, he was hesitant about complying with Mr Boutros- Ghali's wishes immediately.

Quite apart from the legal quagmire, many Germans are deeply reluctant to get involved in the Yugoslav conflict because they fear it would evoke bitter memories of the Nazi invasion of the region in the Second World War.