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Merkel Rules out Sending German Troops to Lebanon
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel has ruled out sending Germany's combat troops and police to Lebanon as part of an expanded UN peacekeeping mission to secure a shaky cease-fire between Lebanon's Hezbollah group and Israel after their month-long fighting.

In an interview with the Welt am Sonntag newspaper published on Sunday, Merkel reiterated Germany's stance on this issue, namely, its emphasis on avoiding the risk of a direct confrontation between German and Israeli soldiers as memories of the Holocaust are still fresh.

However, she conceded that Germany planned to send a small navy unit to help guard Lebanon's coastal waters to curb the flow of weapons into the volatile border region.

Germany is also considering offering advisors and technical support to the Lebanese border police at the Israeli and Syrian frontiers and the Beirut international airport, she said.

Meanwhile, Merkel expressed the hope that other European countries would contribute more troops to the UN peacekeeping mission, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

Asked about the significance of the German participation in UNIFIL, Merkel said Germany is responsible for the existence of Israel because of historical reasons and that the UN mission will hopefully bring peace to the Middle East.

The question of whether Germany should send troops to Lebanon has been fiercely debated in the country, with a solid majority of the German public against the proposal. Merkel's government has been cautious while dealing with the issue.

(Xinhua News Agency August 21, 2006)

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