Germany's Past Keeps Bonn From Larger World Role

GERMANY is among the European Union nations advocating punitive bombing raids against Serb forces in Bosnia, who are accused of launching a mortar shell on Feb. 5 that killed at least 68 people in Sarajevo.

But if Western forces end up going into action in the former Yugoslavia, Bonn has already announced that its troops will not get involved.

``We shall be unable to participate because of our constitutional and historical situation,'' German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel explained.

Since reunification in 1990, Bonn has been seeking to raise Germany's political role in the emerging world order to a level commensurate with its economic might. For example, Mr. Kinkel is pushing hard for Germany to receive a permanent seat on the United Nations' Security Council. But many experts say it is unlikely Germany will obtain a permanent seat until it is able to participate in multilateral military operations.

Though the Bosnian crisis may expose Germany's foreign policy limitations, the situation may have domestic political benefits for Chancellor Helmut Kohl, whose popularity among voters is sagging in the run-up to federal parliamentary elections Oct. 16.

Some observers say that if the Bosnian crisis and Russia's neo-imperialist rumblings continue - foreign affairs could emerge as a key election issue. That could help Mr. Kohl convince voters to stick with a leader with proven foreign policy skills.

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