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Bosnia: Germans Plan Bigger Role In Peacekeeping Force

By Ron Loggans

Prague, 7 November 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Germany's defense minister Volker Ruehe says he expects a German unit for a new international peace-keeping force in Bosnia to be ready by February.

In a statement to the defense committee of Germany's Parliament, Ruehe said he expected the German unit to consist of about 3,000 men. It would be more actively involved in Bosnia than the present German force, which basically consists of pioneer units repairing roads and bridges. Germany also has a medical unit based in Croatia and flies air patrols from NATO bases in Italy .

Ruehe said the new German force would include armed troops and intelligence units as well as pioneers and medical units. It would be equipped with light tanks and transport helicopters. He said Germany would continute to contribute aircraft to NATO's aerial patrols over Bosnia and might also send a warship.

Any new international force for Bosnia has to be approved by the United Nations Security Council. Ruehe told the parliamentary defense committee he expected this to be given early next month.

Germany's participation has to be approved by the Federal Parliament, which is expected to vote in mid-December. Political analysts expected it to be approved, despite the doubts of some deputies from the Social Democrats and the Greens party.

German commentators say the Defence Minister is known as a vigorous supporter of a stronger German presence in the new international peace-keeping force for Bosnia. He has proposed that Germany be given a senior role in the military command. At the same time, Ruehe has said that the new international force should remain in Bosnia for no longer than a year.

Ruehe told the defence committee that the German force would have to begin specialized training before the Federal Parliament voted if it was to be ready by February. He expected training to begin November 18.

Germany's plans for a stronger presence in the new international force were discussed in Bonn this week by Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel and NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana.