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German court foils Somalia plan

BONN - Germany's highest court yesterday rebuffed an attempt by the opposition Social Democrats to have the presence of German troops in Somalia declared illegal, writes Steve Crawshaw.

At the same time the constitutional court in Karlsruhe passed the buck back to the politicians by insisting that future decisions on the German troop presence or on participation in other UN operations must be taken by parliament.

The decision will be welcomed by those who have criticised the apparent refusal of political leaders to make their own decisions unaided by eight judges in Karlsruhe.

The court's provisional decision to allow the troops to stay appears to have been influenced above all by realpolitik: the government would have been severely embarrassed if it had suddenly been forced to pull out at this stage. The German troops are providing humanitarian assistance and technical back-up, away from the main areas of violence.