German Chancellor’s office contradicts Israeli government claim that German naval forces are ready to secure the Lebanese coast under UN flag
London similarly denied that British naval units would take part in monitoring Lebanese shores against arms smuggling.
debkafile adds: Confusing preconditions and delays by the Lebanese government are holding up the German deployment. Berlin has offered to lead the UNIFIL naval component securing the Lebanese coast but the Siniora government under Hizballah pressure only agrees to its deployment seven miles offshore and therefore unable to search for arms smugglers. Beirut is also holding back its formal application for this force to the UN and the German government – claiming to be waiting for the Israeli embargo to be lifted. The Olmert government agreed to end the embargo Thursday claiming UN assurances that international monitors were ready to take over embargo missions. This is far from the case and the lifting of the embargo was therefore opposed by the Israeli military.
Germany insists on a clear request from Beirut, coupled with a robust mandate from the United Nations, to prevent sea-based arms smuggling mainly from Syria to Hezbollah militants, before submitting the request to parliamentary approval.
Berlin is reportedly prepared to allocate up to 3,000 sea and air troops and some 13 vessels to the task. Even then, two weeks would be needed to bring them to the Middle East.
Merkel, in an address to the Bundestag, indicated that the German forces` main task would be monitoring the sea exits. She would wait for several days before taking a final decision on their deployment. She stressed that the national forces must not be put “in confusing conditions or at risks. German troops, the Chancellor said, should not be engaged in combat missions “or open fire at the Israelis.”
German experts are due in Lebanon by the end of this week to arrange logistics with the Lebanese army, but the defense ministry in Berlin stated they are not an advance contingent to prepare for the main mission.