German foreign minister under fire for slighting NATO and Libyan opposition

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, August 12, 2011

From Natalia Drozdiak, Reuters:  Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle faced ridicule across Germany and even within his own party Friday for stating that it was chiefly U.N.-imposed economic sanctions that led to the downfall of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.

In remarks this week, Westerwelle stressed that it was the sanctions — rather than rebel forces and NATO air support– that brought down the Libyan strongman. His comments were trashed in Germany, even by some in his Free Democrats.

"The sanctions and the international isolation were of great importance — that is what prevented Gaddafi’s regime from getting fresh supplies," Westerwelle said. . . .

Westerwelle has been the most unpopular foreign minister in the country’s post-war history. His FDP party has plunged in the opinion polls and he was forced to give up the party’s leadership this year. . . .

Westerwelle was nevertheless assailed by a former leader of his own Free Democrats, ex-Interior Minister Gerhard Baum: "Westerwelle’s abstention doctrine has caused major damage. Now his constant harping that it was sanctions that brought down the regime sounds like an arrogant know-it-all."

The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung quoted a member of parliament in the ruling centre-right coalition saying Westerwelle’s comments were "a huge embarrassment."

Ruprecht Polenz, chairman of the parliament’s foreign policy committee and a leader in Merkel’s CDU, also said it would have been wiser if Westerwelle had not made those remarks.

"One should have said ‘fortunately our concerns turned out to be wrong and we’re delighted about that — and we’re happy for our allies and obviously happy for the Libyan people’," Polenz told Deutschlandfunk radio Friday.

From Charles Hawley, Spiegel:  Indeed, it was left up to Gerhart Baum, a former German interior minister and eminence grise of the FDP, to say aloud what everyone was thinking. "Constantly referring to the sanctions supported by Germany which allegedly toppled the (Libyan) regime is sanctimonious," he said. He went on to say that Westerwelle has "taken the wrong position in the Libya question and the entire party has to pay for it. . . ."

From DPA:  Buam said his party should have completely ousted Westerwelle when it appointed a new leader, Philip Roesler, in May. Instead, Westerwelle kept his old cabinet post and only gave up his party leadership.

The new FDP leader, Roesler, who is economics minister, rejected the resign calls. But in remarks to be published in a newspaper Saturday, he also filled in the missing words of thanks to Germany’s NATO allies.

"Our deep respect and gratitude go to our allies who resolutely intercepted Gaddafi’s murder squads," Roesler said.  (photo: AP)

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