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Monday, 5 June, 2000, 12:39 GMT 13:39 UK
Germany offers asylum to SLA
South Lebanon Army forces retreat from south Lebanon
SLA forces fled south as the Israeli military pulled out
Germany says it would be prepared to give asylum to up to 400 members of Israel's former militia ally in south Lebanon.

Foreign Mnister Joschka Fischer confirmed that asylum would be offered to members of the South Lebanon Army (SLA) after a meeting with the Israeli foreign minister, David Levy, in Jerusalem on Monday.

Asked why, Mr Fischer said: "Because we are always willing to help friends."

Some 6,000 SLA members and their families fled to Israel after the Israeli army withdrew from south Lebanon last month.

The BBC Jerusalem correspondent says the former SLA fighters are being ostracised by other Arab communities inside Israel - only about a third of them have accepted an Israeli offer of citizenship.

The announcement came as the trial of the first of some 1,7000 SLA members accused of collaboration with Israel began in Beirut.

Mr Fischer described the decision of Israel's Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, to withdraw from Lebanon after a 22-year occupation as "courageous".


Joschka Fischer, German Foreign Minister
Joschka Fischer: Help for our friends
He said that he hoped it would lead to further peace moves.

Mr Fischer later went into a meeting with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

He is due to hold talks in Jerusalem in the evening with Mr Barak.

"Europe and Germany are willing to do everything to support the peace process," he said.


David Levy, Israeli Foreign Minister
David Levy: Might be a permanent agreement
US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is due in Israel later on Monday on a new mission aimed at reaching a peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians by September.

Asked about the prospects for peace, Mr Levy said: "It depends on the degree to which the other side shows flexibility and the will to make progress. We will know in the coming few days.

"We are in a stage which might bring with it a permanent agreement but it doesn't only depend on us, it depends on the other side - whether they will show a willingness for compromise and flexibility."

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See also:

02 Jun 00 | Middle East
Lebanon border deal 'close'
02 Jun 00 | Middle East
More homes for Golan settlers
31 May 00 | Middle East
Lebanon pledges aid for south
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