BERLIN (IDN) – The new conservative-liberal coalition government wants the United States to withdraw all nuclear weapons still deployed in Germany despite the fall of the Berlin Wall, end of the cold war and re-unification twenty years ago.

Confirming the goal, Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle (then designated) announced Oct 25 and the previous day that they would take up the issue with the U.S. administration. Observers said this might happen when Merkel travels to Washington to address the U.S. Congress on November 3. After Konrad Adenauer who spoke to both houses in May 1957, she will be the second German chancellor to do so.

The coalition agreement that will guide the actions of the government in the next four years states that in the context of the Review Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty next May and *”the process of preparing a new strategic concept of NATO, we will work together with American allies for the withdrawal of the remaining nuclear weapons in Germany”*.

The coalition agreement was signed Oct. 26 by the heads of Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its Bavarian sister Christian Social Union (CSU) and the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) — Merkel, Horst Seehofer and Westerwelle.

Westerwelle left no doubt about his resolve to have nukes out of Germany when he addressed his party rally here Oct. 25. He said the new German government would support the vision of U.S. President Barack Obama for a world free of nuclear weapons.

At the same time, he added: *”We will take President Obama at his word and enter talks with our allies so that the last of the nuclear weapons still stationed in Germany, relics of the Cold War, can finally be removed. Germany must be free of nuclear weapons.”*

Chancellor Merkel, who continues in office in the aftermath of September general election, shares Westerwelle’s view but stresses that no unilateral action would be taken to remove the nuclear warheads. *”We do not want any independent action here,”* Merkel told Oct. 24 reporters in Berlin.

During the cold war that followed on the heels of World War II (1939-1945), the U.S. stationed a large number of nuclear weapons in various European countries. The number of such arsenal still in Germany is estimated at 20 by the German chapter of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985.

*“No official or publicly accessible information is available on where the weapons are stored. But some of the missiles are believed to be stationed at the Buechel airbase in the western German state of Rhineland-Palatinate,”* agency reports say.

IPPNW Germany – comprising some 50 peace groups – welcomed the new government’s intention. *”This (the coalition agreement) means that the national campaign ‘our future – nuclear weapon-free’ has reached an important milestone,”* said Xanthe Hall, the organisation’s nuclear disarmament expert, adding: *”We had set ourselves the goal of persuading the government, within three years, to advocate the withdrawal of these remaining nuclear weapons.”*

She pointed out that *”what some people in the media are calling a ‘marginal issue’ is in fact a very important contribution towards a nuclear weapon-free world”*. IPPNW believes that a step like this can help negotiations with Iran or North Korea. *”Only if we disarm can we demonstrate to others that nuclear weapons are not necessary for our security and persuade other countries to renounce them,”* Hall said.

The IPPNW campaigners have been putting pressure on parliamentarians since 2007 to position themselves in regard to disarmament. The campaign to win their support was intensified in run up to the September election. The liberal FDP, Buendnis 90/Die Gruenen (the Green Party) and Die Linke (the Left Party) have all taken strong positions in recent years on the question of the withdrawal of the nuclear weapons *“based in the Eifel region”*, and have repeatedly tabled motions in the Parliament.

However, the outgoing CDU/CSU-SPD grand coalition always voted these down. Even though the SPD had pledged to work for withdrawal of nuclear weapons from Germany in its policy programme, it could not vote in favour because of the coalition agreement with the conservative CDU-CSU.

*”It was clear from the start that a future coalition agreement would be our greatest obstacle,”* continued Hall. *”That’s why lobbied with candidates already during the election to commit them to saying they would stand up for withdrawal of nuclear weapons during the coalition negotiations.”*

After the election, the IPPNW campaign council sent letters to all the negotiators. Ten Conservative ‘Mayors for Peace’ wrote to Chancellor Merkel and asked her to make the issue of disarmament ‘Chefsache’ (top priority) and end nuclear sharing. The German affiliate of Mayors for Peace supports the campaign *”our future – nuclear weapon-free”*.

The Mayors for Peace NGO is composed of cities around the world that have formally expressed support for the programme announced by Takeshi Araki, the Mayor of Hiroshima, in 1982. The cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were assaulted by U.S. atomic bombs in August 1945, reducing the two cities within minutes to rubble and killing hundreds of thousands.

Araki proposed on June 24, 1982 at the 2nd UN Special Session on Disarmament a ‘Programme to Promote the Solidarity of Cities toward the Total Abolition of Nuclear Weapons’. This proposal offered cities a way to transcend national borders and work together to press for the abolition of all nuclear weapons.

Subsequently, the Mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki called on mayors around the world to support this programme. The organisation is now supported by 554 cities in 107 countries and regions. Mayors for Peace is recognised by the UN as an official NGO.

Mayors for Peace aims to build solidarity and facilitate coordination among cities around the world. Its primary goal is to raise awareness regarding nuclear weapons abolition. It is also formally committed to pursuing lasting world peace by addressing starvation, poverty, refugee welfare, human rights abuses and environmental destruction. (IDN-InDepthNews/27.10.09)

By Ramesh Jaura – IDN-InDepthNews Service