German FM Offers Asylum for Lebanese Militia during Middle East Tour
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, on a swing through the Middle East, said Monday his country was ready to give asylum for members of Israel's former allied militia in south Lebanon.
Fischer also pledged support for the peace process during separate meetings with Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy and Palestinian president Yasser Arafat.
Asked after talks with Levy if Germany would offer asylum to 400 members of the South Lebanon Army (SLA), Fischer told reporters: "Yes, I can confirm it."
Some 6,000 SLA members and their families fled to Israel after the army withdrew from south Lebanon last month following the collapse of the militia in the face of advancing Hizbullah fighting.
Fischer described Prime Minister Ehud Barak's decision to withdrawal from Lebanon after a 22-year occupation as "courageous" and said he hoped it would lead to further peace moves.
He later met Arafat in the West Bank town of Ramallah for talks on the status of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, with US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in the region to advance efforts to reach a deal by a September deadline.
"Germany has supported the peace process from the start and we see that there is an opportunity to push it forward," he said through an interpreter.
Palestinian international cooperation minister Nabil Shaath told reporters after the meeting that Israel must withdraw from land occupied in the June 1967 Middle East war, which began on this day 33 years ago - OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (AFP)
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