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Thursday, May 13, 1999 Published at 21:28 GMT 22:28 UK

World: Europe

Greens back leader over Nato

Pacifist Greens scuffle with police outside the conference hall

The German Green Party has averted a crisis by voting against a pacifist move from its ranks to demand a permanent ceasefire in Yugoslavia.

At a special meeting in Bielefeld to discuss party disunity over the Kosovo conflict, the 800 delegate backed a compromise motion proposing a limited unconditional halt to the bombing.

Party leaders said the new motion would not undermine the Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer, who threatened to resign if the pacifist resolution was approved.

[ image: Joschka Fischer was hit by red paint]
Joschka Fischer was hit by red paint
Earlier, Mr Fischer had to be taken to hospital briefly, suffering from a perforated eardrum, after one protester pelted him with red paint.

He faced fierce heckling from some delegates as he appealed to them not to undermine the German Government and Nato by demanding a permanent ceasefire.

The pacifist party, which is the junior partner in Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's government, has been deeply split over Germany's participation in Nato air strikes.

The BBC's Terry Stiastny: "Protests against the German Green Party's support of Kosovan war"
Greens on the far-left of the party argued that German participation in the Nato campaign was wrong and should be stopped immediately. They said the fundamental principles of the Green Party were at stake.

But self-styled "realist" Green MPs argued that the bombing was both necessary and justifiable.

Threat to unity averted

If a permanent ceasefire had been approved, it would have made the Greens' continuation in government impossible, and would have meant an end to the red-green coalition just eight months after it took power.

It would also have been a damaging blow to Nato unity.

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