Germans at Odds over NATO Role in Enforcing Bosnia No-Fly Zone Debate Affects German Coalition, NATO and US Ties

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GERMANY is coming under heavy criticism at NATO headquarters in connection with the war in Bosnia and Germany's restrictions on troop deployment in foreign lands.

Internal debate over German involvement in surveillance operations of the war-ravaged former Yugoslavia also could threaten the longevity of Germany's coalition government.

German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel says that, for constitutional reasons, Germany will withdraw from participation in air surveillance of Bosnia if the United Nations Security Council votes to enforce a no-fly zone.

Germany's role in the surveillance mission is key, military experts say. Germany now commands 18 NATO radar planes, or AWACS, based in Geilenkirchen, in western Germany. A third of the crew for those planes is German. Through a shuttling service, NATO has two, and sometimes more, AWACS monitoring Bosnia from flights over Hungary and the Adriatic Sea.

NATO Secretary-General Manfred Worner, himself German, warned yesterday against a German pullout from the AWACS mission. In an interview with the German newspaper Die Welt, he said that the AWACS mission would be "heavily impaired" if the Germans pulled out.

On Friday, after a NATO meeting in Brussels, Secretary-General Worner said German withdrawal would have effects far beyond the Bosnia case, implying a pullout would undermine the integrity of the alliance itself.

Were the UN Security Council to approve enforcement of the no-fly zone, a German withdrawal would not sit well with the new Clinton administration. United States officials publicly express understanding that Germany's troop restrictions are a domestic issue, but the new administration has also made it clear it expects the Europeans to do more in solving the Yugoslav crisis.

President Clinton backs enforcement of a no-fly zone and is expected to discuss the issue with senior advisers this week.

Bosnia is "clearly the highest priority of the president in the National Security Council's agenda," Madeleine Albright said last week at her confirmation hearings to be US ambassador to the UN. …