Chancellor Angela Merkel's centre-right coalition and opposition parties alike have indicated they will agree to send Bundeswehr soldiers as part of a UN humanitarian mission. The troops would protect humanitarian workers.
The centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the environmentalist Greens accused the government, however, of flip-flopping on the issue of sending troops to the strife-torn country, where rebels have been battling the regime of dictator Muammar Qaddafi since mid-February.
Last month, Germany abstained in a United Nations Security Council vote to authorize military intervention in Libya, which annoyed traditional allies France, Britain and the United States.
Philipp Mißfelder, foreign policy spokesman for the parliamentary wing of Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) told daily Süddeutsche Zeitung Germany had a moral duty to get involved.
His counterpart from the junior coalition partner, the Free Democrats (FDP), Rainer Stinner, told the same paper: “We are open to the participation of the Bundeswehr in a military protection of a humanitarian mission.”
Stinner said Germany's participation would help dispel questions among allies about Germany's commitment to the NATO alliance.
“I don't want there to be any doubts at all on the question of alliance solidarity,” he said.
The centre-right coalition came under heavy criticism for the Security Council abstention with claims it was avoiding an unpopular entanglement in the Middle East because of looming state elections. The ruling parties performed badly in those elections anyway.
FDP general secretary Christian Lindner denied that the new plan was in any way a reversal of the previous position. He told Friday's Passauer Neue Presse that the humanitarian contribution plan was consistent with the government's position all along. Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle had indicated last month that humanitarian help would be considered, he said.
“We are ready to accept our responsibility in the humanitarian consequences of the war,” he said. “But the Bundeswehr will not intervene militarily in Libya.”
Deputy chairman of the Greens' parliamentary group, Frithjof Schmidt, said in Friday's Ruhr Nachrichten that the government was “see-sawing from one position to another.”