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Schroeder to force confidence vote

BERLIN, Germany -- German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder will hold a vote of confidence on his offer to send troops to join the war on terror.

The parliamentary vote, which is expected to take place later in the week and could bring down the government, would be only the fourth time in Germany's post-war history that it had been invoked.

Schroeder is expected to get the plan to deploy troops through parliament with the backing of opposition parties but he called the confidence vote to shore up support within his governing coalition.

Both members of his own Socialist Democratic Party and the junior coalition partner, the Greens, have threatened to vote against the deployment.

"The chancellor sees no other possibility," said Gernot Erler, deputy head of the SPD's parliamentary group, ahead of a meeting of the party's left-wing members, Reuters reported.

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Erler said Schroeder will link the motion of confidence to a parliamentary vote on the troop deployment, probably on Friday.

Schroeder told reporters on Tuesday: "I am confident that we can get our own majority. It will require more discussion and more convincing but I think everyone knows the special significance of what is at stake here."

Schroeder told his Socialist Democratic Party deputies that he wanted to continue his government with the Greens, even after the next election.

The chancellor made the offer to send the German troops to support the U.S.-led coalition last week.

He also offered help in combating nuclear, biological and chemical weapons; medical services; air transport, and naval forces to protect shipping lanes.

Germany has seen demonstrations against the war, and opinion polls regularly show a majority are against sending ground troops in.

Despite Schroeder telling parliament last week that the U.S. had not asked for troops to take part in ground combat operations, concern remains.

Schroeder is keen to show support for the U.S. and NATO, and told parliament at the start of the debate last Wednesday that it was now time for Germans to repay the solidarity the U.S. had given the country since WWII and throughout the Cold War.

The German constitution, drafted to avoid a repeat of the country's past militarism, requires that parliament approves the deployment of troops outside the NATO area.


• German Federal Government

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