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German Ambassador Peter Wittig. / H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY

Germany may break from tradition by providing weapons to Kurdish forces in northern Iraq to help repel Islamic State extremists, Germany's ambassador to the United States said Tuesday.

Peter Wittig said during a meeting with USA TODAY's Editorial Board that his government has not made a final decision on sending lethal aid to Iraq, but if it does, it would be a "watershed" moment.

Germany has long stood on the principle that it will not ship weapons to conflict zones. The fighting in Iraq, however, is different, Wittig said.

"I believe (the West) underestimated the advance of the group (Islamic State)," he said. "We are seeing a new form of warfare, cruelty and disdain for humanity that has shocked the world."

Germany has pledged to send non-lethal supplies to Iraq, including armored vehicles, tents and protective vests.

He said Germany and its allies are concerned about the threat posed by Islamic State insurgents who hold European and American passports.

Wittig, Germany's former ambassador to the United Nations, said he does not see U.N. involvement in stopping the Islamic State. "The U.N. has no standing force and will never have one," he said. "U.N. peacekeepers are not capable of military options or counterinsurgency measures."



Copyright 2014USAToday

Read the original story: Germany weighs providing weapons to Iraqi Kurds

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