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Germany: Government Reacting Coolly To Washington's UN Proposal

Germany's government is reacting coolly to U.S. President George W. Bush's appeal for more international support in Iraq, saying it is ready to consider humanitarian aid but ruling out any form of military assistance. The opposition, however, says Berlin should keep all its options open while negotiations proceed on a new UN resolution for Iraq.

Munich, 9 September 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Germany's latest response to U.S. President George W. Bush's appeal for greater international involvement in Iraq came from Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer.

Speaking yesterday, Fischer said Berlin is ready to assist in the reconstruction of Iraq and the stabilization of the country but has no plans to deploy troops there. He emphasized Germany's view that the United Nations must be given the central role in rebuilding the country.

"We are ready to participate in the reconstruction and on the stabilization of civil structures, if there are guarantees of transparency -- complete transparency -- and international control," he said. "This is also an important point for our European Union partners. However, let me repeat once again that we have absolutely no plans to deploy the military -- the German army -- in Iraq."

In his comments yesterday, Fischer did not indicate what type of aid might be available, but Foreign Ministry officials say it is possible that Iraqi soldiers or police could be brought to Germany for training. Germany has experience training local police forces in the Balkans and in Afghanistan.

Nor did Fischer say what type of humanitarian help might be given to Iraq. Previously, it has been suggested that Germany could send medicine and hospital equipment. Asked about German participation in reconstruction projects, such as repairing water supplies, officials say that depends on negotiations under way at UN headquarters in New York.

Germany's refusal to deploy troops in Iraq reflects opinion polls showing that a majority of the population continues to oppose the U.S. occupation of Iraq. The government also says its armed forces are stretched to the limit by its commitments in Afghanistan and the Balkans. It has about 7,500 troops in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Macedonia.

The opposition Christian Democrat party is criticizing the government for its attitude toward negotiations on a new UN resolution on Iraq. Wolfgang Schaeuble is a senior spokesman for the Christian Democrats: "It is a mistake to say, as the chancellor has done, that we favor a stronger role for the United Nations [in Iraq], but we will not assist in bringing that about. Those who desire a stronger role for the United Nations should focus on that goal and not say in advance, 'We will do nothing.'"

The opposition's spokesman on foreign affairs, Friedbert Pflueger, says Germany could be in an embarrassing situation if NATO agrees to send a military mission to Iraq under a UN mandate. He said it would be politically impossible for Germany to refuse to participate and still expect to be a major player in NATO.

Last week, Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac rejected the first draft of the U.S.-sponsored resolution on Iraq. They said it did not go far enough in granting broader powers to the UN.

Negotiations on the resolution are continuing in New York.

Opinion polls show Bush's appeal for international support in Iraq is being received coolly by many Germans. They argue that Bush did not indicate how much power the U.S. will cede to the United Nations or indicate a timetable for returning political power to Iraqis.

One of Bush's critics is Gernot Erler, a senior official for the governing Social Democrats: "There were no concrete details in this speech. It remains completely unclear what role the United Nations should have in the reconstruction of Iraq or in resolving the serious problems there."

The Foreign Ministry in Berlin says that, despite the criticisms, German diplomats at the UN are actively involved in the negotiations on a new resolution. They say Germany hopes an acceptable resolution can be ready for the opening of the UN General Assembly on 22 September.