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Chancellor Angela Merkel defends German mission in Afghanistan
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10:28, September 09, 2009

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Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday defended Germany's military mission in Afghanistan, but also expressed regret for innocent victims, if there were any, in last week's German-ordered air strike on two hijacked fuel tankers.

Merkel made the remarks during a speech to parliament in response to an acknowledgement by the NATO-led force in Kabul that the Sept. 4 air strike called in by German commanders and carried out by a U.S. warplane may have killed civilians.

Merkel rejected opposition calls for a troop pullout after the strike, which prompted criticism at home and abroad because of the possibility that civilians were killed in the attack.

"The mission in Afghanistan is our reaction to terror, the consequences of not acting will affect us just as much as the consequences of acting," Merkel said.

Local media reported that last week that the air strike targeted two tanker trucks seized by Taliban militants near the northern Afghan town of Kunduz.

An initial assessment led by U.S. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, NATO's commander in Afghanistan, "concluded that civilians had been killed or injured," NATO's International Security Assistance Force said in a statement.

Merkel, addressing parliament before Sept. 27 elections, promised German support for a thorough investigation of the attack.

"We will not gloss over anything, but we will not accept any premature condemnation," she said. "I refuse to tolerate that, either from Germany or from abroad."

Merkel also told the parliament that she regrets it deeply if any civilians were harmed as a result of German actions.

"Every innocent person who dies in Afghanistan is one too many -- we mourn for every single one," she said. "Every innocent person injured is one too many -- we feel sorry for them and their relatives."

Source: Xinhua



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