German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer has warned his Green Party that he will quit unless it backs the government's move to send troops to help the US-led anti-terror campaign.
Greens leader Fischer told a heated meeting of party parliamentarians late Wednesday that the continued participation of the junior coalition partners in government was at stake, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung said.
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer delivers a speech during the debate in the Berlin Parliament, Thursday, Nov. 8, 2001, about the offer to supply German armed forces for the U.S. led war against terrorism. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's cabinet approved Wednesday his offer to provide up to 3,900 German troops to assist the US-led offensive against the Taliban in Afghanistan, in a move showing Germany's military coming of age since World War II.
For the first time since that war, German troops could be making the highly symbolic step of being engaged in combat outside Europe, although Schroeder said Washington had not asked Germany "to participate either in air strikes or in putting in ground troops."
The cabinet, predominated by members of Schroeder's Social Democrat party (SPD), specified the area where German troops may be called on to operate as, in addition to the NATO countries, the Arabian peninsula, the Middle East, Central Asia and northeast Africa, as well as the corresponding sea lanes, in a copy of the resolution made available in a press statement.
Schroeder had on Tuesday announced the initiative -- still subject to parliamentary (Bundestag) approval -- following up on his promise of "unlimited solidarity" with Washington in the fight against terrorism in the wake of the attacks September 11 against the United States.
Germany is to offer a package including Fuchs (Fox) armored vehicles, which can detect nuclear, biological or chemical elements on the battlefield, special forces, evacuation forces, transport forces and naval forces.
During the day an increasing number of party faithful came out against the sending of troops to aid the anti-terrorism war, with some vowing to vote against the measure in parliament.
Green Party co-president Fritz Kuhn, speaking on public ARD television, said he recognized the existence of "a real controversy over the future of the Greens' participation in government."
The Green's Secretary General, Reinhard Buetikofer, admitted on radio that many parliamentary party members had "considerable reservations" over the move.
The Greens parliamentary group was scheduled to meet again Thursday, and to vote internally on Tuesday, before the Bundestag debate on the issue.
Even within Schroeder's SPD questions were raised at a long meeting of MPs Wednesday, the group's president Peter Struck admitted.
"These questions echo the debate going on throughout the country," he said.
Even if the Greens vote against the government's plans and the ex-communist Democratic Socialist Party (PDS) confirms its opposition to sending in troops, Schroeder is still assured a comfortable parliamentary majority for the Bundestag vote.
The vast majority of his SPD members will be joined in the vote by members of the opposition Social Democrats.
What remains to be seen is whether Schroeder can win a majority within his own coalition government, rather than depending on opposition support.
The Bild daily reported Thursday that the German forces would be based in Uzbekistan, bordering Afghanistan.
Uzbekistan is to date the only one of the former Soviet republics which border Afghanistan to have accepted US forces on its territory. Some 2,000 US troops are stationed at Khanabad in the south of the country, not far from the Afghan border.
Copyright © 2001 AFP