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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 March 2008, 15:05 GMT
New medal plan for German heroes
Iron Cross symbol on German vehicle in Afghanistan
The Iron Cross remains a German symbol - but not a medal
The German president has backed a proposal to introduce a top bravery medal for German soldiers - but no return of the Iron Cross is planned.

Horst Koehler said he would support a medal for "exceptional bravery" in the army, the Bundeswehr.

The German armed forces sport an Iron Cross symbol on their hardware - but the medal itself has been shunned since World War II.

The defence ministry said it had no plans to bring back the Iron Cross.

It rejected a German conservative MP's call for the medal to be reintroduced.

German troops in Afghanistan (file pic)
Germans serve with international forces in several hotspots
"We should reclaim the positive side of this symbol," argued Ernst-Reinhard Beck of the Christian Democrats (CDU), who heads Germany's association of army reservists.

He said that from the Balkans to the Hindu Kush the Iron Cross had come to be identified as a "sign of help and solidarity", through German armed forces deployments in trouble spots.

The Iron Cross was established originally as a Prussian military honour by King Frederick Wilhelm III in 1813.

The medal was later awarded as a top honour to German servicemen during both world wars. But it was abandoned in 1945, because of its wartime associations.

Defence Ministry spokesman Thomas Raabe, quoted by the AFP news agency, said "we are not thinking of bringing it back, though we do want to introduce a medal to honour soldiers who show courage".

The new medal's design has not yet been decided, he added.

The German military currently has four degrees of award for exceptional service.

SEE ALSO
German troops 'had WWII symbol'
02 Nov 06 |  Europe

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