Reuters International

BERLIN (Reuters) - The German cabinet gave the green light on Wednesday to send up to 650 troops to join a new NATO mission to combat arms smuggling by the Islamic State militant group in the Mediterranean Sea.

The German involvement in NATO's operation Sea Guardian will last until the end of 2017. In exceptional emergencies, it will be possible to temporarily increase the number of German soldiers involved in the mission.

The deployment is part of a broader shift by Germany to expand its military role in Europe and NATO. Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen has sought to rebuild equipment and troop levels of the armed forces after years of declines.

NATO members agreed to launch the new maritime mission at a summit in Poland in July. German ships are also participating in a European Union military mission called Sophia to try to combat the smuggling of weapons and people off the Libyan coast.

(Reporting by Thorsten Severin; Writing by Caroline Copley; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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 Reuters International