German troops to join terror war
BERLIN, Germany (CNN) -- German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has offered up to 3,900 troops for the U.S.-led war on terrorism, backing up Germany's pledge of solidarity with the United States.
The offer includes help in combating nuclear, biological and chemical weapons; medical services; special forces; air transport, and naval forces to protect shipping lanes, Schroeder told a news conference.
He said Germany was not asked to supply air or ground forces in Afghanistan.
"The German government is convinced that we will support the international fight against terror with these measures and we will fulfill our responsibilities," Schroeder said.
"We won't forget that military measures are only a part of this fight against international terrorism. It is just as important to remember that political and diplomatic measures should be followed through, especially the maintenance of the international campaign against terror," he said.
Schroeder declined to say where and at what stage of the campaign the German troops would be deployed. "A contribution to the air strikes or providing ground troops was not requested," he said
Participation in military action is a sensitive issue in Germany, which, mindful of the crimes of the Nazis, requires parliamentary approval of any deployment of troops outside the NATO area.
The contribution reflects Germany's ambition, 56 years after the end of World War Two, to take a more prominent role in world affairs that matches its economic might.
"This is a historic decision," said Schroeder.
The decision is likely to be approved in parliament. The main opposition parties, the conservative Christian Democrats and liberal Free Democrats, have said they would support a German contribution.
But the decision looks set to put added strain on Schroeder's coalition with the pacifist-leaning Greens party, several prominent members of which have called for a halt to the U.S. bombing raids on Afghanistan.
"You don't need to be a prophet to see that this won't be easy for the coalition," Richard Hilmer, managing director at the Infratest polling institute, told Reuters.
"Members of the Greens are calling for attacks to be suspended and this does not fit well with approving German troop deployment," he said.
"The dispute could worsen and it could prove to be the crack along which the coalition breaks."
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