Germans protest raids against Iraq, seek more time for sanctions WAR IN THE GULF

January 18, 1991|By Ian Johnson | Ian Johnson,Special to The Sun

BERLIN -- From the hundreds of thousands of protesters on the street to a few uncomfortable politicians at the top, few Germans evinced support yesterday for the U.S.-led bombing raids against Iraq.

Peaceful protesters, including schoolchildren who were allowed the day off to participate, marched through the centers of dozens of German cities calling on President Bush to "end that war." Many U.S. military bases were surrounded by protesters, while sit-down strikers blocked entrances.

In Bonn, Chancellor Helmut Kohl said he was "perplexed" and "worried" about the attack on Iraq. Later in parliament, he said that the attacks were justified according to United Nations resolutions but that he hoped for a quick return to peace and a Middle East conference that would solve the Palestinian question.

Mr. Kohl, who formally started his fourth term as chancellor yesterday, also reiterated his promise that German soldiers would not be sent to the Persian Gulf.

Opposition Social Democratic leader Hans-Jochen Vogel said he was "horrified" by the attacks and urged that they stop immediately, saying negotiations and the economic embargo should be given a chance to work.

The protesters' and politicians' reaction reflected the general, deep disappointment here that the relaxation of tensions that accompanied the end of the Cold War and German unity had ended so soon. Many Germans viewed the peaceful unification of East and West Germany, which was accompanied by endless conferences and meetings, as a sign of how all potential conflicts could be resolved.

"I'm worried. The world seemed peaceful, and now it's blown up in a war," 14-year-old pupil Sabine Braun said at a demonstration in Berlin.

Many Germans support her view, with 79 percent opposing military action, according to a reliable poll of 1,028 people commissioned by West German radio. Only 33 percent said they thought politicians had made enough of an effort to find a solution.

Some commentators said that even though Germany was a major European power, there was a feeling of helplessness about the coming of the gulf war. Writer Werner A. Perger, in the weekly newspaper Die Zeit, said there was a "feeling of powerlessness" concerning the gulf that made many Germans angry and unhappy.

The protests have become regular events over the past few days with organizers promising to keep up the pressure of 4 p.m. nationwide demonstrations, all-night vigils in front of U.S. bases and large marches on the weekends.

Although most people have been content to express their opposition through peaceful demonstrations, authorities said a revival of Germany's terrorist movement, perhaps working with Iraqi support, could not be ruled out. With more than 250,000 U.S. troops stationed in Germany, there are more than enough targets.

The main target could be the Rhein-Main Air Base in Frankfurt. It is the largest air base in Europe and handled about 25 percent of supplies and troops sent to the gulf. Base spokesman Eberhard Bock said the already stringent security measures have been augmented.

Wednesday, there was an attempt in by the "Revolutionary Cells" to blow up one of Berlin's best-known landmarks, the 25-foot Goddess of Victory on top of a 150-foot column in the center of a busy traffic circle. The explosives only partially detonated, and the 120-year-old goddess, which commemorates Prussian military victories over Denmark, Austria and France that led to German unity in 1871, stayed on its perch.

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