January 29, 2014 / 4:20 PM / 4 years ago

Merkel tries to quell row over German role in Africa

German Chancellor Angela Merkel gestures during a election campaign in the western town of Soest April 26, 2010.Ina Fassbender

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany is ready to send logistical support to Central African Republic but will not dispatch combat troops with a planned EU mission, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday, trying to end a domestic row about Berlin's role.

A split in Merkel's grand coalition between conservative Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen and Social Democrat (SPD) Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier about Germany's role in Africa has caused strains in the new government.

Merkel told the lower house of parliament the government was looking at whether to do more in Central African Republic.

"I say if necessary. It's not about a German combat force, but about our capabilities in rescue and treating the wounded," she said, adding Germany also wanted to strengthen its mandate in Mali to train security forces.

Germany currently has a mandate to send 180 troops to help train African soldiers in Mali.

The EU last week agreed to send troops to help stabilize Central African Republic after lobbying from France, which has sent around 1,600 soldiers to its former colony to stop massacres between Muslim and Christian militias.

Von der Leyen has said she wants to expand Germany's military role in Africa while Steinmeier has voiced reluctance.

Haunted by its Nazi past, Germany has a strong pacifist movement and is traditionally reluctant to send soldiers on missions abroad.

However, a Forsa poll showed on Wednesday that 51 percent of Germans supported a bigger army role in humanitarian missions in crisis-hit areas of Africa while 43 percent oppose it.

Reporting by Andreas Rinke; Writing by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Tom Heneghan

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