Tags: Schröder: | Bush | Won't | War | Against | Iraq

Schröder: Bush Won't War Against Iraq

Tuesday, 19 February 2002 12:00 AM

Bush gave Schröder that assurance nearly three weeks ago in Washington when the two leaders privately discussed Germany's role in the war on terrorism, Uwe-Karsten Heye told reporters in Berlin.

The delayed announcement comes at a time when conflicting opinions of Iraq have strained relations between the United States and European allies fighting the war against terrorism.

"The federal government (of Germany) cannot imagine that the American government is interested in adventures" including a war against Iraq, Heye said. "The chancellor received a guarantee in Washington that (Bush) has no concrete plans for an attack on Iraq."

Moreover, the spokesman said, Bush told Schröder that Berlin would be consulted before Washington takes any future action. The German leader responded by expressing support for preserving the current international coalition as a "meaningful and appropriate" tool against terrorism.

Heye's comments at a routine Monday press briefing came on the same day that Bush, while on an Asian junket in Japan, defended his "axis of evil" stand against Iraq, Iran and North Korea.

Three days ago, Vice President Dick Cheney told the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington that he expects the international community to support America "if aggressive action is required" against Iraq. He also said the United States was prepared to act alone, if need be, to stop terrorists.

The American position has troubled European leaders, including Schröder's foreign minister Joschka Fischer; the external affairs commissioner for the European Union, Chris Patten; and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, who is currently serving as president of the European Union.

The European leaders have questioned what they perceive as unwarranted U.S. saber rattling against Iraq, warning that Washington could undermine the allied effort against terrorism.

Fischer has repeatedly urged Washington to exercise caution and cooperate with Europe, noting that he's seen no evidence tying Iraq to the plotting of terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden. Aznar emphasized that battling terrorism should not including warring against so-called rogue states.

Patten expressed an even stronger view last week. After reading a Financial Times interview with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, he called Washington's leaning toward a unilateral military policy "profoundly misguided."

France has also questioned U.S. policy toward Iraq, but Britain has not.

Heightening concern over cracks in the U.S.-Europe alliance against terror was last week's controversial meeting in Baghdad between Austrian far-right leader Jörg Haider and Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Although the meeting was widely condemned, it gave Hussein an opportunity to tell Europe -- some say cynically -- that he also opposes terrorism and wants to cooperate with the coalition.

According to Haider, Hussein is willing to open his country to U.N. military observers.

In the same vein Monday, Heye said the German government is "firmly convinced" that U.N. observers should return to Iraq, but he added that it's up to Baghdad to make the first step toward welcoming observers.

Echoing Fischer's position, Heye said the chancellor does not think Iraq is supporting the terrorist network that Germany, the United States and others are trying to defeat.

Since Sept. 11, the Germans have assumed an active role in the anti-terrorism campaign. Nearly 4,000 military personnel joined Operation Enduring Freedom in November, including 1,800 aboard ships and naval aircraft.

In recent days, a German chemical-warfare unit participated in military exercises with U.S. soldiers in Kuwait. And it was announced last week that an armed forces fact-finding team has been sent to Mombassa, Kenya, to investigate the possible construction of a German naval aircraft station for planes that would patrol Indian Ocean shipping lanes.

But Schröder is facing war jitters in Germany. Last fall, those jitters nearly led to the collapse of the two-party political coalition that currently keeps the chancellor in power. And Schröder will be seeking re-election next fall.

To that end, the Schröder government is also emphasizing its part in relief and humanitarian efforts to battle terrorism.

Berlin recently launched a project to rebuild Afghanistan's police force as a step toward restoring domestic security. Germany is shipping about 40 police buses, rebuilding a police academy in Kabul and plans to train about 25,000 Afghan police officers in the next few months.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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Bush gave Schröder that assurance nearly three weeks ago in Washington when the two leaders privately discussed Germany's role in the war on terrorism, Uwe-Karsten Heye told reporters in Berlin. The delayed announcement comes at a time when conflicting opinions of Iraq...
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Tuesday, 19 February 2002 12:00 AM
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