Most Germans oppose bigger role for military: poll

Most Germans oppose bigger role for military: poll

BERLIN, Jan 31, 2014 (AFP) - Most Germans oppose a bigger role for their military in the world's trouble spots despite a push by the country's new defence minister, a poll released Friday indicated.

Asked whether they would support more deployments of Bundeswehr forces to crisis regions, 61 per cent said "no" versus 30 per cent who would back such moves, according to the poll for ARD public television.

The survey was conducted among 1,000 eligible voters from Monday to Wednesday.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's new defence chief Ursula von der Leyen said in an interview last weekend that Germany should engage more strongly in Africa by sending additional military trainers to Mali and supporting the French intervention in Central African Republic.

Asked by news weekly Der Spiegel whether Germany - often criticised for its post-World War II reluctance to send troops abroad - should boost its international military engagement, she said, "within the framework of our alliances, yes".

In crisis-hit African countries, Germany "cannot look the other way when murder and rape are a daily occurrence, if only for humanitarian reasons," she said.

The remarks triggered a debate in a country still marked by its militaristic past and the issue is to figure prominently at the 50th Munich Security Conference, bringing together global leaders from politics, defence and diplomacy and starting later Friday.

Merkel said Thursday after talks in Berlin with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that she would take Germany's ongoing deployments in Afghanistan and Kosovo into account before asking parliament to send forces elsewhere.

She added that Berlin saw such deployments as a last resort and would continue to focus on diplomacy, development aid and training of local troops to help quell unrest where it arises.

And she explicitly ruled out sending combat troops to CAR as part of an EU military mission, as Ban said he would welcome greater German "engagement" in resolving world crises and standing up for human rights.

In a separate poll Thursday for Stern magazine, 51 per cent of Germans surveyed said that the Bundeswehr should take part in "humanitarian" missions in African crisis zones, while 43 per cent rejected such action.

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