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Germany: Minister Says U.S. Iraq Requests Under Consideration

German Defense Minister Peter Struck says the government is considering a request from the United States about the support it can expect in the event of a war with Iraq. Struck said the Germans are seeking clarification on some points. The government, led by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, has said repeatedly it will not commit troops to an attack on Iraq but has left open the possibility of other support. Israel has also asked whether Germany will make Patriot antimissile systems available for its defense, as it did in the Gulf War in 1991.

Munich, 27 November 2002 (RFE/RL) -- German Defense Minister Peter Struck confirmed that Germany is considering a request from the United States about support it is willing to provide in case of a war with Iraq.

Struck, in comments yesterday, gave no details of the list of U.S. requests but said clarification was needed on some points. "As you know, the Americans have made certain requests [to us]. These are not absolutely clear in some points. We will clarify these in the next few days, and then we will give the Americans an answer," Struck said.

He said he would give a list of the requests to all parties in the German parliament and explain why the government was seeking more information. He said it would then be up to the government to decide how to respond.

German newspapers have speculated that the United States is seeking special overflight rights and other measures in case of war. The government has said Germany is bound by treaty to allow the United States the use of the Ramstein air base in case of war. The United States also has military hospitals in Germany.

In his comments, Struck renewed previous German government declarations that it would not provide troops or other direct military assistance for an attack on Iraq. He also rejected suggestions by some German military experts that Berlin might offer the United States the use of its mobile laboratory units, which are equipped to detect nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.

Six of these have been stationed in Kuwait since early this year and have joined U.S. troops in military exercises.

A prominent German defense analyst, Hans-Ulrich Klose, speculated on the weekend that Germany might allow these to be used by the United States in the border region with Iraq if there is a war.

The defense minister said, "I don't share this view," adding that he had no plans to increase the number of German soldiers in Kuwait.

Germany's stance has angered the U.S. government and strained U.S.-German relations in spite of a handshake at last week's NATO summit between German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and U.S. President George W. Bush.

The defense minister also confirmed that Israel has asked it for an undisclosed number of Patriot antimissile systems to help protect it in case of war. The Patriot is designed to destroy incoming missiles in the air before they reach their target. Germany provided Israel with similar weapons when Israel was attacked by Iraqi missiles during the 1991 Gulf War.

Struck said Germany was still considering the request and would not make a decision until it had been considered by the federal government. "We will consider the Israeli request. I have reported [to parliament] the response of the previous government led by Helmut Kohl to a similar request during the Gulf War in 1991. I will not make a decision on this request until it has been examined by the federal government," Struck said.

Schroeder said yesterday in an interview that his government plans to "help Israel" by granting its request for U.S.-designed Patriots. He told "Die Zeit" weekly that if the Israeli government needs this increased security, Germany is going to help.

The Israeli Embassy in Berlin said yesterday that Jerusalem wanted only the antimissile systems and was not asking Germany to provide soldiers to man them.

Israel was hit by several Scud rockets fired by Iraq during the Gulf War. Two Israelis were killed and hundreds injured in the attacks. The United Nations Compensation Commission awarded Israel $74 million in compensation for the attacks. The first $5 million of this was transferred to Israel in August last year. The money was obtained from the sale of Iraqi oil.

Israeli television has reported that the request for the Patriot rockets had been made at the suggestion of the United States. According to the television report, the Israeli military believed that its own Hetz missiles, which it developed with the United States, are capable of defending the country. The television report said Israel has stationed Hetz missiles close to Jerusalem since August in anticipation of a possible Iraqi attack.