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Germany: Foreign Minister In Washington For Talks On Iraq

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer is in Washington this week to urge the United States to help draw up a new United Nations resolution on Iraq which might open the way for Germany and France to help rebuild the country. Germany -- which opposed the war in Iraq -- has already said it will not become involved in Iraq without a UN resolution.

Munich, 14 July 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Berlin expects the United States to make a formal request to NATO in September to send troops to support peacekeeping efforts in Iraq.

Government spokesman Bela Anda said this weekend it was possible a request would be received at the NATO Council in Brussels after the summer break. He said the U.S. was not expected to act before then.

Last week, the U.S. Senate urged President George W. Bush to ask the NATO military alliance to send troops to Iraq to support the 147,000 U.S. soldiers there. Nine of NATO's 19 members are already involved with the Iraq operation but on an individual basis, not as members of NATO.

Several U.S. senators said they particularly wanted Germany and France to participate in the proposed NATO force.

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder told German television on 11 July that his government will not send troops to Iraq except in a NATO context and only with a specific mandate from the United Nations. He said the Bush administration had already been informed of this position. German officials in Berlin say there should also be a formal request for assistance from what is described as a "legitimate provisional government" in Baghdad.

Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer will discuss these conditions with U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Colin Powell during his four-day visit to the United States this week (14-17 July). Fischer told reporters in Berlin at the weekend that depending on the outcome of his talks, the possibilities for German involvement would be considered by the government and parliament.

Fischer emphasized that his government's opposition to the war had not changed, and that Germany would not be part of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq. "Should something new emerge [in Washington], we shall discuss the possibilities in the government and parliament. However, our attitude has not changed -- we are not part of the [U.S.-led] coalition," he said.

Neither Schroeder nor Fischer offered any details of the present German position. However, after the war ended in April, both said the reconstruction of Iraq should be organized only under the umbrella of the United Nations.

The Iraq war was opposed by more than 70 percent of the German population. Recent opinion polls have indicated that most Germans do not want the nation to be militarily involved in postwar Iraq either. Many believe that any assistance should be limited to humanitarian aid, including such things as supplying clean water and electricity to the population.

Last week's call in the U.S. Senate for formal NATO support of the Iraq operation followed a debate about continuing attacks on U.S. troops and the rising costs of the operation. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said last week the operation was costing the United States $3.9 billion a month, nearly twice the amount originally estimated. Other U.S. officials have suggested the occupation could continue for up to four years.

On 22 May, the UN Security Council approved a resolution officially designating the United States and Britain as the "occupying powers" in Iraq. It said they would assume the duties and responsibilities which international law gave to occupying powers.

Harald Mueller, who is professor of international relations at Frankfurt University, is one of several German commentators who argue that Iraq remains an American problem and NATO should not become involved.

"The British and Americans marched into a foreign country of their own free will. If they get into difficulties there, that has nothing to do with the NATO alliance," Mueller said. Mueller and other commentators suggest that Germany should offer humanitarian assistance to the people of Iraq, but say Berlin's resources are limited because of the German economic crisis.

Commentators have also suggested that some countries might not want to join a NATO military force in Iraq if it is controlled by the U.S.-led occupation army. They argue that if NATO sends troops to Iraq, it should be separate from the occupation army and share responsibility for rebuilding Iraq.