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Germany plays catch-up after being on sidelines of NATO's Libya campaign

Germany's government now appears eager to make loans, unfreeze Libyan assets, and commit itself to aid for Libya, but a growing list of critics is saying it's all too little, too late.

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German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle briefs the media about the situation in Libya at the foreign ministry in Berlin, Tuesday, Aug. 23.

Markus Schreiber/AP

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Having decided to stand on the sidelines for NATO's Libya campaign – amid strong criticism – Berlin is now sprinting to catch up with history as Tripoli floods with rebels and a victory seems near.

Germany voted in March against a United Nations no-fly zone, withdrew naval resupply vessels in the Mediterranean Sea, and took an occasional we-told-you-so attitude as the Libyan operation dragged on.

The German decision not to participate as Benghazi was on the verge of being routed, left Europe, the US, and NATO without its biggest ally. It was described as a surprise for a country historically careful not to isolate itself with allies.

Yet Europe’s biggest nation now appears eager to make loans, unfreeze Libyan assets, and commit itself to aid, partly as a recompense for what is being decried in Germany as a major policy blunder.

Yet whether Germany’s newfound attitude is enough to quell bitter feelings at a time when it is criticized for a lack of ardor for European unity is unclear.

“Too little, too late,” says Ulrike Guérot of the European Council of Foreign Relations in Berlin. “It’s a statement that we were out, but now we want to be in.”

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