BONN, JAN. 29 -- Germany announced today that, to support the Persian Gulf War, it will give $5.5 billion to the United States, send antiaircraft systems and nearly 600 more soldiers to Turkey, and comply with Israel's request for military aid.
With the move, Bonn is seeking to allay foreign doubts about its support for the war. The $5.5 billion pledge "is proof beyond words how firmly we support the United Nations resolutions" against Iraq, said Dieter Vogel, spokesman for Chancellor Helmut Kohl.
The contribution to offset U.S. military costs is Germany's first since September and is intended to cover the first three months of this year, the government said. Germany will announce further pledges to Britain Wednesday and to Israel later in the week, Bonn sources said.
Last fall, Germany gave $2.2 billion to the United States, Egypt, Turkey and Jordan -- much of it in surplus equipment from the now-dissolved East German army.
Today's gift will be entirely in cash and Washington will have sole control over its use, Vogel said. The German contribution will pay for five to 10 days of the war, according to U.S. estimates.
Germany's contribution, details of which were worked out in a phone conversation between President Bush and Kohl Monday night, is designed to ease mounting criticism in the Western alliance over the relative silence of the Bonn government and the ambivalence of the German public toward the military effort against Iraq.
Today's pledge came during the first lull in the political row over German policy on the war. Otto Lambsdorff, chairman of the Free Democrats, the junior partner in Kohl's coalition, said Germany needed to heal relations with Washington quickly because "we are experiencing the beginning of the worst crisis in the relationship of trust between the U.S. and Germany."
An Israeli source said Israeli officials met with Kohl today and asked for equipment to defend against chemical gas attacks, including gas mask filters, medical antidotes, alarm sirens, Hawk air defense missiles, and Fox chemical monitoring tanks. The Fox, made by German arms manufacturer Thyssen Henschel, carries detection equipment that gives crew members a detailed printout of contaminated areas and allows them to test soil without leaving the tank. Patriot air defense missiles will not be sent, the Israeli source said, because Germany's Patriots are equipped for use against aircraft, not missiles.
German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher got a chilly reception from Israeli officials and public when he went to Jerusalem for a solidarity visit last week. Nonetheless, German and Israeli officials said Bonn remains determined to demonstrate its sense of responsibility to the Jewish state and to make amends for the role German companies played in building Iraq's chemical weapon capabilities and in extending the range of Iraqi Scud missiles, which can now reach Israel.
Despite large, daily anti-war demonstrations, a majority of Germans support the use of force in the gulf, several opinion polls indicate. But by equally large majorities, Germans do not want their country to take part in the war.
Even if Turkey were attacked by Iraq, Germans are split over whether their country should honor its treaty obligations to its NATO ally. A new poll by ZDF television found 48 percent of Germans in favor of defending Turkey and 47 percent opposed.
Bonn's new pledge of support for Turkey includes eight Roland anti-aircraft missile launchers and nine Hawk air defense launchers, and declares "the obvious German readiness to fulfill our duties regarding the NATO treaty and our NATO ally Turkey."
The new German presence in Turkey will include about 580 soldiers to man the defense systems, about three times the number already there with the 18 German Alpha fighter jets sent earlier.
Germany has refused to send troops to the gulf because Kohl contends that Bonn's constitution forbids the German military from being used outside NATO territory, a reading disputed by many politicians and legal scholars.
Germany's silence on the war, its reluctance to provide military spare parts requested by Britain, and its failure to give financial support until directly asked have added up to "a catastrophe" for Bonn's foreign policy, said Guenther Mueller, a Christian Social Union (CSU) legislator. The CSU, the most conservative faction in Kohl's coalition, has blamed Genscher for German foreign policy's plunge into crisis. Genscher's aides describe the foreign minister as "morose" and "defeated" in the wake of the collapse of the vision of peace and European unity he preached during the year of German unification.
Although Kohl last week made a short, strong statement of support for the United States and Israel, he has not addressed the nation on the gulf war and he is reported by his aides to be deeply frustrated by the sudden deterioration of Germany's relations with its U.S. and European allies.
The Kohl government also moved to show its solidarity with the international coalition against Iraq by taking steps to strengthen the penalties for companies that illegally export arms to non-NATO countries, and it said it will consider confiscating the proceeds of illegal deals and increasing the possible jail terms for executives making such sales.
German President Richard von Weizsaecker, meanwhile, went to a U.S. Army base in Kirch-Goens to tell families of U.S. soldiers serving in Saudi Arabia that "I am here with you today to let you know how close I feel in these days and weeks to you, the mothers and wives, daughters and sons, friends and comrades."
He said that the anti-war and anti-American demonstrations in Germany in recent days are the result of a young generation that grew up "with the deep shock and horror" of World War II and resolved not to allow their society to take on a military role, except to defend German territory.
But he said, "It is our conviction and our duty to support our allies emphatically and with all our power."