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UN secretary general urges 'leadership' by Germany

BERLIN — UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged Germany on Thursday to play a leadership role in international affairs, and Chancellor Angela Merkel rebuffed calls for this to include sending German troops to war zones.

Ban met Merkel on the first day of a four-day stay in Germany that will include attending this weekend's Munich Security Conference and talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry.

At a joint news conference, he stressed the need for more troops to stop violence between Christians and Muslims in the Central African Republic without mentioning Germany as a possible contributor.

Merkel said Germany "had made clear from the start it will not provide combat troops" for the Central African Republic.

Given its history, Germany is reluctant to go into combat abroad, despite regular complaints by its allies that it does not pull it weight in wars.

"Countries like Germany which is one of the most thriving, most robust, healthy economies - an economic power - should also show political leadership. That is why I am here," Ban said.

"That is why I asked her to demonstrate her leadership in Syria and in Central Africa and in many other areas. We need to address all these issues to make this world better for all," he said.

Merkel stressed Germany's doctrine of offering aid and advice instead of troops.

"It is not about more military commitment or less. Political influence by a big country like Germany can be exercised in various ways," she said. "That means, when you aren't militarily involved, you can be just as involved in political conferences."

She added: "You also need a political solution, a development component, the creation of stable government structures, and in certain cases a military component too. We'll decide case by case what contribution we make."

She stressed her new coalition government with the left-leaning Social Democrats did favour greater activism.

"I have to get involved, to ensure certain conflicts come to an end," she said, citing Berlin's diplomatic role in the Syria peace talks, advice to Mali and a push with other world powers to curb Iran's nuclear programme.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier earlier said: "It is rightly demanded of us that we get involved." He told the Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper: "Germany is too big to simply be a commentator about global politics."

Ban urged Merkel to personally attend a climate change summit at the United Nations that he will convene on September 23.

Ban began his visit by meeting Steinmeier and by attending the first meeting of a new scientific advisory board that will aid the United Nations. He is to visit UN offices in Bonn on Friday.

Germany, which is a major contributor to the UN's budget, is seeking a seat in the UN Council on Human Rights.

It also hopes to be elected to a two-year stint as a member of the UN Security Council, in 2019-20.
 

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