German lawmakers say minister misled them over Kosovo

BERLIN, Mar 30, 2000 -- (AFP) German deputies believe Defence Minister Rudolf Scharping may have misled parliament and public opinion into backing NATO's air war against Yugoslavia by claiming that Serbian authorities had a plan to drive Albanians out of Kosovo, the Berliner Morgenpost reported Thursday.

Doubts have grown in Germany about the reality of such a plan, which Scharping presented in early April 1999 in a move which helped prepare public opinion for the participation of German armed forces in the war.

The minister spoke at the time of a plan codenamed "Horseshoe" allegedly conceived by the regime of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to rid Kosovo of its ethnic Albanian majority.

Members of the Greens party, which is in the ruling coalition, as well as opposition Christian Democrats and the ex-communists of the Party of Democratic Socialism have queried the claim of the Social Democrat defense minister, according to the newspaper.

The Greens party defense affairs spokeswoman, Angelika Beer, has called on the government to clear up suspicions or risk giving the impression it had misled public opinion and parliament, the Morgenpost reported.

Christian Democrat member Willy Wimmer said the parliamentary defense commission should examine the conduct of the government during the Kosovo war.

PDS defense expert Wolfgang Gehrcke said deputies had not been provided with credible evidence of the "Horseshoe" plan. His party reportedly had 170 questions on the matter.

The daily Hamburger Abendblatt on March 21 quoted a book by a German former brigadier-general, Heinz Loquai, in which he expressed serious doubts about the existence of such a plan.

Loquai, now an advisor to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, questioned how Scharping could provide details of the alleged plan at a time when the western military command said no specifics were known.

Original article