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"We're talking only about emergency help," Social Democrat parliamentary leader Peter Struck said. For example, the navy could be called to help in a situation where police maritime patrols were not sufficient, he said.
The proposal will now go to Merkel's Cabinet and then to parliament for approval.
Given Germany's militaristic past, many are hesitant to expand the role of soldiers domestically. Currently, the German military can be deployed within the country only in times of war, or to help with emergencies or natural disasters.