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Friday, May 14, 1999 Published at 03:19 GMT 04:19 UK

World: Europe

German Greens avert political crisis

Joschka Fischer (left) can remain Chancellor Schröder's foreign minister

The German Green Party has averted a potential political crisis by voting to back its leadership on its Kosovo policy.

The move will defuse fears of the break-up of the German coalition government.

BBC Berlin Correspondent Caroline Wyatt: "A clear victory for the realists"
At a special conference in Bielefeld to discuss the Kosovo conflict, the Greens backed a compromise motion proposing a pause in the bombing to see if President Milosevic will end his campaign in Kosovo.

The party, deeply divided over Germany's participation in the Nato bombing, opted for the compromise by 444 votes to 318.

Party leaders said the new motion would not undermine the Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer, the Greens' most popular politician.

Mr Fisher said the compromise left sufficient leeway not to put at risk the coalition government between the Greens and the Social Democrats.

[ image:
"Fischer: You're done!"
Mr Fischer had said he would refuse to implement calls for a unilateral, indefinite Nato ceasefire.

But at the conference he woud not confirm speculation that he would resign if the party voted for the more radical motion by members of the pacifist left wing of the party.

Violent Disagreement

[ 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 threw a can full of red paint at him.

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.

Pacifist roots

The BBC's Terry Stiastny: "Protests against the German Green Party's support of Kosovan war"
Greens on the far-left of the party argue 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.

The party has its roots in the campaign for nuclear disarmament during the Cold War era and the ecological, no-nukes movement of the 1970s.
[ image: The plight of the refugees influenced the vote]
The plight of the refugees influenced the vote

For many of the so-called "fundamentalist" members Thursday's decision will be a bitter pill.

Daniel Cohn-Bendit, like Mr Fischer a veteran of the 1960s' protest movement, but traditionally a party leftist, summed up the importance of the day: "The time has come to choose between force and cowardice. Although it hurts me to say it, I choose force rather than leaving the people of Kosovo all alone."

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.

And it would have weakend the alliance's diplomatic position, since Germany currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union.

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