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Schroeder gambles on troop vote

Schroeder: Committed to military role but not offensive operations  

BERLIN, Germany -- Germany's ruling coalition is holding last-ditch talks to secure victory in a vote of confidence over Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's leadership.

The vote was called after some members in his coalition said they would vote against Schroeder's intention to commit up to 3,900 troops to the war on terror.

By combining the no confidence vote with Friday's vote on deploying troops, Schroeder hopes to dampen the dissent in his ranks against the military commitment.

The result is expected to be close and could be swayed either way if one or two members do not turn up to vote because of illness.

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The opposition had been due to vote with Schroeder on deploying troops -- a move that would have seen him secure a large majority for the decision.

But Schroeder also wanted a majority of his coalition -- made up of his Social Democrats (SPD) and the junior partner, the Greens -- to approve the measure so he tied the military decision with a vote on his leadership.

Opposition parties are now expected to vote en bloc against Schroeder meaning he is relying on his coalition -- and especially wavering dissenters -- to support him.

The coalition has 340 of the 666 Bundestag seats so if only seven coalition MPs vote against Schroeder and troop deployment it could bring down the administration.

Five MPs - four of them politicians in his government's junior coalition party, the Greens -- have said they will definitely not be dissuaded from their pacifist stance.

The fifth, Christa Loercher, is an SPD member but left the parliamentary group on Thursday after vowing to vote against troop deployments -- and therefore Schroeder's leadership.

Loercher, who describes herself as a devoted pacifist and dedicated Social Democrat said "war is no substitute for politics."

The Greens Christian Simmert, 29, who worked in advertising before winning his seat, said: "It will only lead to a guerrilla war and that's just irresponsible."

German peacekeepers in Bosnia
Since WWII German forces have only had limited roles on foreign soil  

SPD and Greens are meeting separately in an effort to cement a majority.

CNN's Berlin Bureau Chief Bettina Luscher said that the ace in Schroeder's hand is that if dissenting Greens do vote against him they risk losing the power they wield as members of the ruling coalition.

If two coalition deputies vote against Schroeder, in addition to the four Greens and Loercher -- and assuming no opposition support for Schroeder -- the government will fall.

The crisis has been sparked by Germany's constitutional obligation to approve troop deployments in parliament.

Schroeder, who wants Germany to take on a bigger role in world affairs, also believes it is time Germany repaid the loyalty shown by the U.S. to Germany during the Cold War.

The chancellor has said that German troops which are deployed will not take part in offensive operations.

It is only the fourth confidence vote in Germany's post-war history -- and the first to be linked to another issue.

Friday's vote may be so narrow that even the absence of one coalition deputy due to sickness could sway it and SPD deputy is in late pregnancy.

Senior Greens have warned their party faces extinction if they allow the government to collapse.


• German Federal Government

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