Report: Germany considering ban on Hezbollah activities
Munich-based Focus magazine says Berlin is considering ban on Hezbollah activities in Germany, but worries it may hurt status as Mideast mediator.
MUNICH, Germany - An internal debate is going on within the German government on a possible ban against activities by Hezbollah members living in the country, the weekly magazine Focus reported.
In its latest issue, the Munich-based Focus said Interior Minister Otto Schily was weighing whether to impose such a ban, but that other top-level officials cautioned that such a move might hurt the status Germany has gained as a mediator between Israel and the militant Shi'ite group.
The magazine cited what it called internal documents at the Interior Ministry in which Schily was informed in early March of the "latent danger potential" posed by Hezbollah cells in Germany.
The warning came from experts of the Federal Criminal Office BKA in Karlsruhe and from the federal Constitutional protection agency BfV, the report said.
But the secret services coordinator in Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's office, Ernst Uhrlau, and the head of the Federal Intelligency Agency, August Hanning, met with Schily to point out that a ban could endanger Germany's role as a mediator in the Mideast peace process, Focus magazine said.
Germany has played a central role on several occasions in recent years in arranging prisoner exchanges between Israel and Hezbollah, and the return of the remains of dead Israeli soldiers.
An estimated 800 Hezbollah backers are living in Germany, the report said.
At the Interior Ministry, a spokeswoman declined to comment on the Focus report.