Kohl seeking to send 1,500 troops to Somalia OPERATION RESTORE HOPE

December 18, 1992|By New York Times News Service

BONN, Germany -- Chancellor Helmut Kohl announced yesterday that he wants to send up to 1,500 German soldiers to Somalia early next year to help the U.S.-led international relief effort there, the first time since World War II that German ground forces would be sent outside NATO's territorial confines.

Deploring endless legalistic discussions about whether the 1949 TC constitution allowed the deployment of German troops beyond NATO territory -- an impasse that prevented Germany from taking part in the military operation against Iraq last year -- Mr. Kohl asked his coalition government yesterday to take action.

The formal ban on deployment of German troops anywhere, except for the defense of Germany within NATO, was enacted in the 1950s.

"This is extremely important for Germany's world reputation," Mr. Kohl said at a news conference. "I will personally insist on a rapid clarification by the coalition of how we proceed on a decisive question for our country's reputation and effectiveness."

Germany could no longer stand on the sidelines, he said. "We need decisions and not endless legal discussions."

He also asked the government immediately to raise the number of supply flights to Somalia from three to four a day, and the Defense Ministry said that up to eight C-160 Transall supply planes, able to fly in 10 tons of food and medicine each on as many as 32 flights a day, would be deployed to the area.

An aide, Friedrich Bohl, said the mission to Somalia would be offered to U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali when he comes to Bonn in January and would be ready to go six to eight weeks from now.

The opposition Social Democratic Party immediately announced that it would challenge Mr. Kohl's decision in the Federal Constitutional Court. Party leader Bjoern Engholm said

the government's plan was unconstitutional because German troops would be exposed to danger.

Mr. Kohl said he would seek agreement with the opposition next month on a less passive long-term security policy. But his majority could defeat any parliamentary challenge to the Somalia plan, and the Constitutional Court is considered unlikely to rule before the first German troops leave for Africa.

The court has yet to rule on a similar challenge to the dispatch of German warships to the Adriatic Sea this summer.

The chancellor appeared to have been stung by the resignation early this week of Minister of Post and Telecommunications Christian Schwarz-Schilling.

The minister, a member of Mr. Kohl's Christian Democratic Party, said Monday that he was "ashamed" to remain part of a Cabinet that was "content to do nothing" about the war in the Balkans, and he criticized Mr. Kohl for his authoritarian leadership style.

Defense Minister Volker Ruehe said over the weekend that the 450,000-man German armed forces were ready to go into action to deliver relief aid in Somalia, but only after fighting stopped there.

The chancellor and other officials emphasized again yesterday that Germany was neither ready nor willing to send ground troops into Bosnia or other parts of the Balkans to counter aggression by Serbian-led forces in the war there.

"German history has its own significance here," he said, alluding to Nazi atrocities in the Balkans that make deployment there very difficult for Germans.

The Balkan conflict has underscored what many see as the impotence of NATO and the European Community to deal with the explosive ethnic tensions that have replaced the Cold War as the greatest threat to peace in this part of the world.

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