Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Germany axes planned bomb range

Opponents of a planned military bombing range northwest of Berlin won a nearly 17-year-long political battle Thursday when the government said it would axe the project.

The defence ministry had aimed to use a vast former Soviet training ground near the town of Wittstock for low-flying military aircraft, which would also have involved bombing runs.

But Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung said the plans for the so-called Bombodrom site had been cancelled "after extremely careful consideration".

"We no longer plan to use Wittstock as an air-to-surface bombing exercise site," Jung said.

Opponents who objected that the training activities would create massive noise pollution for residents of the area and drive away tourists won a key court battle in March against the government's plans.

Thousands of protesters had rallied most recently against the project in April during traditional Easter pacifist marches.

"This is a joyful day for the people of this region," the premier of Brandenburg state surrounding Berlin, Matthias Platzeck, said.

The German military already performs 75 percent of its training flights abroad in NATO partner countries including the United States, Italy and Canada.

Jung said the Bombodrom flights would now also be conducted outside Germany, a move he said would incur higher costs that he declined to estimate.

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