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Germany: Intelligence Service Says Hussein Poses No Immediate Threat

German intelligence has weighed in with an assessment of the threat posed by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein that differs substantially from the U.S. view, which says Iraq is actively seeking to develop weapons of mass destruction. The German report says Iraq does not pose an immediate military threat, though it concedes Iraq has taken steps to develop biological weapons. The report underscores the strong differences between Germany and the United States on the issue of Iraq.

Munich, 14 February 2003 (RFE/RL) -- German intelligence has offered an analysis of the threat posed by Iraq that differs in tone and substance from that of the U.S.

The German report, prepared by the head of the German foreign intelligence service, concludes Iraq does not pose an immediate military threat, although it concedes Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein may present a danger over time.

This differs from U.S. assertions that Hussein is actively seeking to develop weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, and that its links to terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda may necessitate swift military action.

The report says Germany doubts Iraq has a program for building nuclear weapons. It concedes Iraq has converted trucks into mobile labs for biological weapons, though it says no one from German intelligence has seen inside the trucks.

The German report also says it found no links between Iraq and the Al-Qaeda terrorist group. The report did not rule out individual contacts but said this would not be sufficient to prove active cooperation.

The report is likely to further bolster German public opinion, which is firmly against action in Iraq. It also offers support to the government of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who has ruled out Germany's participation in any military action.

Yesterday, in an address to the German parliament, Schroeder forcefully reiterated his opposition to military action against Iraq: "Our government is together with France, Russia, China, and many other countries [in rejecting] the idea that a peaceful solution in Iraq is not possible. A peaceful solution is possible, and that's what we are fighting for, ladies and gentlemen."

Schroeder's stance has badly strained relations with the United States and widened divisions between his ruling Social Democratic Party and the opposition Christian Democrats.

Opposition leader Angela Merkel yesterday renewed her criticism of Schroeder for rejecting military action in Iraq -- even military intervention undertaken with support of the UN Security Council.

She said such a stance makes war more likely since it reduces pressure on Hussein to comply with UN resolutions that Iraq disarm. Merkel accused the chancellor of pandering to public opinion at the cost of Germany's international standing: "Mr. Chancellor, why have you -- as the only leader of a state and government that I know of -- already made a determination [regarding Iraq] before the UN has even made its final report? Mr. Chancellor, I've thought about that many times and [I've determined] it could only be because of purely domestic political motives."

This week's opinion polls show 71 percent of Germans agreeing with Schroeder's antiwar policy. Among them yesterday was a group of elderly survivors of the devastating allied bombing raid on the eastern Germany city of Dresden on 13 February 1945.

A white-haired woman at a service in a Dresden church told reporters: "No one who had lived through an air raid would wish it on another." She said the real victims of an attack on Iraq will be ordinary men and women with no connection to Hussein's regime.