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Germany: Berlin Ready To Join Afghan Peace Force

German Chancellor Gerard Schroeder says his country is ready to participate with other European nations in a peacekeeping force for Afghanistan. He made the offer after welcoming today's successful conclusion of talks on an interim administration for Afghanistan. But some German commentators are already warning that troubles may lie ahead in implementing the agreement.

Munich, 5 December 2001 (RFE/RL) -- German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder used the final ceremony of the Afghan conference near Bonn today to stress that the Afghan people have endured years of war, poverty, and repression, and now have the right to expect a normal life.

Schroeder's aides told correspondents that his remarks should be interpreted as a signal to the divided Afghan factions to settle their political differences in the interests of their people. Schroeder said, "After all these years of war, terror, poverty, and humiliation, the people of Afghanistan -- and they are the most important -- now have a concrete prospect of peace and the prospect of an economic future."

Schroeder later told reporters that it is important that Afghanistan's leaders seize the chance now being offered them to build a stable country with a stable administration. He said European countries, including Germany, are willing to provide economic and other assistance but will do so only if it is certain the aid is being used for the good of the country.

He said that although Germany was not directly involved in the negotiations, which were sponsored by the United Nations, it had helped where possible. He gave no details, but reports in the German media today say Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer broke a deadlock on 3 December by telephoning Northern Alliance leader Burhanuddin Rabbani in Kabul.

According to diplomats quoted by the German media, Fischer persuaded Rabbani to release a list of Northern Alliance members for an interim government. According to these reports, he warned Rabbani that Western aid could be withheld unless the Bonn conference reached agreement on a broad-based government.

Schroeder also told reporters that Germany would be willing to participate in an international peacekeeping force in Afghanistan, but only within a European context.

"If it is suggested that -- in the framework of a European solution -- Germany should also participate, the country would not want to say no and could not say no."

Opinion polls indicate that most Germans believe that as a leading European power, the nation should play a role in any international peacekeeping force for Afghanistan. A substantial minority confesses to being uneasy about the prospect, however.

In the past few days, several German commentators have warned against excessive euphoria about the agreement reached near Bonn. They emphasize that it now has to be put into effect in Afghanistan, where several factional leaders are known to be critical of its provisions.

In a typical commentary, analyst Peter Munch for Munich's "Suddeutsche Zeitung" newspaper writes: "The ex-king, Zahir Shah, may be satisfied with a symbolic role. But someone like the Northern Alliance's Burhanuddin Rabbani, whose biography is closely linked to the civil war of the 1990s, will not be pushed into retirement so easily."