BONN, SEPT. 5 -- The West German government has decided not to supply funds for U.S. military forces in the Persian Gulf but is willing to offer the use of planes and ships to transport American troops to the region, according to senior policymakers here.
Despite Chancellor Helmut Kohl's personal desire to help in the gulf as a show of gratitude for President Bush's support of German unification, the government concluded that it could not subsidize the massive U.S. buildup of troops and weaponry because it was essentially a bilateral arrangement between the United States and Saudi Arabia, the sources said.
After an anguished policy debate, the ruling center-right coalition agreed to support only those actions endorsed by United Nations Security Council resolutions in the crisis, none of which cover the U.S.-led multinational force now protecting the eastern oil fields of Saudi Arabia.
If necessary, West Germany is prepared to allow the use of some ships and airplanes to move more contingents of U.S. troops to the gulf, the officials said. That support may be enough to satisfy the Bush administration, which has asked allies to lend ships and aircraft so it can rapidly reinforce ground capabilities of Operation Desert Shield with more heavy armor and weaponry.
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, meanwhile, promised to contribute to a U.S.-organized fund to help defray the costs of the deployment but offered no specific amount, the Associated Press reported, citing a spokeswoman for Thatcher.
Bonn's refusal to provide any financial support for the cost of maintaining the large U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia is likely to dismay U.S. congressmen, who have been calling for a stronger financial and military commitment from wealthy allies who benefit from the secure flow of gulf oil.
However, a senior chancellery aide stressed that Bonn feels that since the projected military deployment there was primarily American, "it should be paid for by one nation."
Some reports have suggested the Bush administration was seeking up to $40 million a month from Bonn to help sustain the costly logistical undertaking. Bush this week dispatched Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady to several European capitals to solicit greater financial support for the American effort and to bolster the economies of those countries suffering most acutely from U.N. trade sanctions imposed against Iraq.
Secretary of State James A. Baker III had been expected to visit Bonn Thursday to press for more West German assistance for deployment in the gulf effort. But German officials said that he postponed his stop here to fly to Saudi Arabia and that they do not anticipate any consultations with him until next week at the earliest.
Since the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on Aug. 2, the West German government has resisted allied pressure to become actively involved in the multinational defense effort, citing constitutional provisions that bar participation in military conflicts beyond the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's operating area.
The government has promised that once the two German states become formally unified next month, it will seek an amendment of the constitution to allow German forces to be deployed elsewhere. But any legal change is likely to take too long to have timely consequences in the current gulf crisis.
Despite the escalating price tag of unification because of East Germany's economic plight, the government in Bonn has expressed its willingness to join other members of the 12-nation European Community in providing substantial assistance to countries badly hurt by the impact of the U.N. embargo on trade with Iraq.
EC foreign ministers are planning to meet in Rome Friday to explore ways to send billions of dollars in aid quickly to Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and Yugoslavia -- the four countries whose fragile economies have been damaged most by U.N. sanctions because they have been shorn of once-lucrative commerce with Iraq.