BERLIN, March 23 (UPI) -- Germany pulled its ships out of NATO patrols in the Mediterranean Wednesday to stay out of the Libya no-fly military operation, the defense minister said.
Germany withdrew two frigates and two support vessels with a total of 550 sailors from NATO's command and put them under its own orders, Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere told The New York Times.
Berlin's move came after NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced the alliance would intercept vessels suspected of bringing illegal arms or mercenaries into Libya.
"All allies are committed to meet their responsibilities under the United Nations resolution," he said. Germany abstained on the U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing the no-fly zone.
De Maiziere said because the mission permits force if necessary, Germany will not join in.
"Either we take part or we don't," he said. NATO "must make it possible for other opinions," he added.
On the other hand, German Chancellor Angela Merkel won Cabinet approval Wednesday to send up to 300 more troops to Afghanistan.
"This would be a genuine relief for NATO and a political sign of our solidarity with our allies, particularly against the backdrop of recent events in Libya," de Maiziere said.