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Germany to Give Israel Patriot Missiles

November 26, 2002

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BERLIN (AP) _ Germany has a ``moral duty″ to protect Israel and will provide Patriot anti-missile systems to help its defense against Iraq if war erupts in the Middle East, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said.

``If Israel needs an increase in security, we will help _ and on time,″ Schroeder was quoted as saying Tuesday by the weekly Die Zeit.

Germany has ``a historic and moral duty″ to help Israel, the chancellor said in an interview that was to be published Thursday.

Earlier, the German Defense Ministry said it was examining an Israeli request to supply Patriot missiles.

In Jerusalem, the Israeli Defense Ministry said it asked Germany for Patriot missiles more than a year ago and was waiting for an answer. Israeli officials raised the request again during talks at the German Defense Ministry last week, the Israeli statement said.

The German air force has 30 Patriot missile systems in service, and the daily Die Welt said Israel wants them to strengthen its defense against Iraqi missiles. The report in the newspaper’s Tuesday edition named no sources.

During the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq fired 39 Scud missiles into Israel. U.S.-provided Patriot missiles largely failed to stop the Scuds.

Germany is among some 50 countries that President Bush contacted to ask what they might contribute to a military action against Iraq. Officials have given few details, and government spokesman Hans-Hermann Langguth said Monday the request was ``unspecific.″

The Defense Ministry spokesman said Israel’s request was separate from the U.S. move.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Friday softened his opposition to a war on Iraq after patching up relations with Bush at a NATO summit, making plain that Germany could serve as a staging area for U.S. forces in any invasion to oust Saddam Hussein.

Still, he restated his refusal to commit German troops _ echoing the anti-war stand that helped him win re-election in September and soured ties with the Bush administration.

German officials often stress that their country feels a special responsibility for Israel’s right to exist because of the Holocaust.

Winfried Nachtwei, a lawmaker with Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer’s Greens party, said Monday that ``we certainly could not just stand and watch if there were a danger to Israel’s existence″ in a Mideast war.

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