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Wednesday, May 5, 1999 Published at 15:49 GMT 16:49 UK

World: Europe

Germany faces Kosovo criticism

"Bombs are killing human rights" says the poster

By Berlin Correspondent Caroline Wyatt

The German governing coalition is under growing pressure over its support for Nato air strikes.

Kosovo: Special Report
On the streets of Berlin, several thousand anti-war activists gathered to condemn the Nato bombing.

A recent opinion poll shows a small majority of Germans in favour of stopping air strikes and starting peace talks.

And there is a growing feeling, especially among women and Eastern Germans, that Nato air strikes are proving counterproductive.

Caroline Wyatt: The German Government hopes diplomatic efforts will prevail before too long
The rallies were organised by Germany's trade unions. A handful of protestors even carried posters likening Chancellor Gerhard Schröder to Adolf Hitler for sending in the German air force, the Luftwaffe, to bomb Serbia, as Nazi Germany did during World War II.

"It's a big mistake to try to get peace and throwing bombs on the heads of the people. Now they get the people of Yugoslavia unified again and I have no idea how they want to get out of the situation now," said one German protester.

At an alternative peace demonstration young Germans carried banners with the slogans "Nato Out" and "Stop the Bombing".

'Tide is turning'

Once isolated on the far-left, the former Communist PDS party believes the tide of public opinion in Germany is beginning to turn in its favour and against the Nato campaign.

PDS leader, Lothar Bisky, says every Serb civilian death helps President Milosevic portray his people as the victims of Western aggression:

"If you go on in this kind to make a war there, I think there will be a very difficult situation. Of course it helps not the refugees, it doesn't help anything. They hate us enormously. Milosevic is stronger than every time before. There is no opposition. The result of this war is bad," he said.

[ image: Under growing pressure: Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer (left) and Chancellor Schröder (right)]
Under growing pressure: Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer (left) and Chancellor Schröder (right)
Chancellor Gerhard Schröder of the Social Democrats and his Green Party Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer, are determined to prove that Germany remains a loyal partner in Nato.

And the visit by President Clinton to Germany on Wednesday presented another opportunity to ram that message home. But criticism of Nato from within Germany's governing parties is growing, especially among the pacifist Greens.

Halt to strikes call

Helmut Lippelt, a Green MP, says even his most pragmatic colleagues want a temporary halt to the bombing.

"We would very much like to have the bombardments interrupted for one to two days so that you have the time to work out new strategies and we are very unhappy with this intensifying of warfare against Serbia," he said.

The longer Nato's campaign goes on, the greater the danger is of the German coalition breaking up under the strain.

The Social Democrat MP, Monika Griefahn, admits talk of sending in German ground troops to fight in the region remains the ultimate taboo:

"I think at the moment there cannot be any discussion on ground troops. I know there is a discussion in the UK and in the United States and also in France but I think in Germany we couldn't take it at the moment and I think there are a lot of things to be done beforehand," she said.

The German Government hopes that diplomacy will prevail before too long, otherwise the fear is that, perhaps within weeks, Chancellor Schröder may be forced to decide between loyalty to Nato or loyalty to his Green coalition allies.

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