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German Greens Back Off From Crisis

May 13, 1999

BIELEFELD, Germany (AP) _ Germany’s Greens voted Thursday to back NATO airstrikes on Yugoslavia, rejecting pacifist calls for an immediate and permanent cease-fire that would have undermined the center-left coalition government.

After a raucous daylong congress, delegates voted 444-318 for a motion backed by the highest ranking Green in the government, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, and by the party’s national executive.

The motion said some military force was needed to bring Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to the negotiating table. In a bow to the pacifist sentiment that split the Greens, it also urged a temporary suspension of the bombing to see if Milosevic is ready to end his campaign against Kosovo Albanians.

Fischer _ who at one point during the congress was spattered with blood-red paint by an anti-war protester _ said the motion gave him enough leeway to continue his policy within the government.

The motion averts a political crisis that could have shaken NATO unity and forced Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to seek another coalition partner after just six months with the Greens.

A visibly relieved Fischer was congratulated by party leaders on the stage. In brief words directed at pacifists who voted for a permanent end to airstrikes, he promised to work to represent the ``entire spectrum″ of the party in his post.

Once a peace activist himself, Fischer had implored about 800 delegates before the vote to ``not cut me off at the knees.″ Shouting above jeers, whistles and shouts of ``war criminal,″ he warned that a pacifist stand would send ``the completely wrong signal″ to Milosevic.

Shortly before his speech, Fischer was hit on the side of the head by a mixture of paint and foul-smelling butyric acid from a leftist demonstrator as he sat on the dais, while another protester paraded in front of the stage naked.

Stunned and furious, Fischer wiped himself off with a hastily fetched toilet roll as guards expelled the protesters. He later was treated for a perforated eardrum at a hospital, party spokeswoman Donate Hochstein said.

Leftist peace protesters disrupted the meeting from the start. Police moved in with nightsticks after some demonstrators threw eggs and other objects. Police said 57 demonstrators were arrested; five police officers and at least two demonstrators suffered minor injuries.

Schroeder and Fischer have staunchly defended NATO’s aim of bombing Milosevic into accepting an international force to secure the return of Kosovo refugees. But with anti-war sentiment running high in the coalition, Fischer has also led diplomatic efforts to end the war. Last week, President Clinton visited Germany to bolster Schroeder.

The Greens were founded in 1980 by peace activists and environmentalists. Some, like Fischer, have become more pragmatic but many members object to Germany’s first combat mission since World War II.

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