Germany’s decision to pull military staff from AWACS reconnaissance missions in the Mediterranean to avoid involvement in Libya has been severely criticised back home.
The government is also withdrawing four warships from a NATO operation to enforce an arms embargo.
Germany abstained in the UN Security Council vote which authorised the use of force to protect civilians.
Ahead of crucial regional elections at the weekend the government’s foreign policy has been described as a “farce” by former foreign minister Joschka Fischer.
In the Bundestag on Wednesday Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle denied the accusation.
“The Bundeswehr (the German army) is not going to be sent to Libya. But that does not mean that we are neutral. We share the aim to protect civilians and of course the aim that the dictator must be stopped,” he said.
On Thursday the Brandenburg gate in Berlin was the scene for small but noisy demonstrations. One group of Libyans heaped praise on France for taking a lead in bringing about the no-fly zone.
The message to Berlin was implicit, but since World War II Germany has been wary of foreign military operations, and all such missions require Bundestag approval.
Opinion is divided. Facing the protesters, another group of Libyans made clear their anger at the military action, chanting “down with Sarkozy” as they trampled on the French flag.