Fischer welcomes Ukraine electoral reform

9th December 2004, Comments 0 comments

9 December 2004, BRUSSELS - German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer on Thursday welcomed the Ukrainian parliament's decision to reform the country's electoral system, saying he was convinced this would ensure the organisation of fair elections. "The will of the voters will now be expressed clearly," Fischer told reporters at a meeting attended by 26 NATO foreign ministers in Brussels. The German Foreign Minister reiterated Berlin's refusal to send German soldiers to Iraq, even as part of a NATO operation i

9 December 2004

BRUSSELS - German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer on Thursday welcomed the Ukrainian parliament's decision to reform the country's electoral system, saying he was convinced this would ensure the organisation of fair elections.

"The will of the voters will now be expressed clearly," Fischer told reporters at a meeting attended by 26 NATO foreign ministers in Brussels.

The German Foreign Minister reiterated Berlin's refusal to send German soldiers to Iraq, even as part of a NATO operation in the country.

"The Chancellor and I have explained to NATO that we are not going to send German troops to Iraq," Fischer said.

But he insisted that Germany was training Iraqi police officers and soldiers in the United Arab Emirates, adding: "We started doing this when others were still scratching their heads" over what to do in Iraq.

The political situation in Ukraine and the alliance's hopes of expanding operations in Iraq and Afghanistan were at the top of the agenda at the NATO meeting.

"The importance of a sovereign and democratic Ukraine will take an important place in our discussions today," said NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, adding however that a scheduled meeting with Ukrainian officials had been called off.

"This is not the right moment" for such contacts, de Hoop Scheffer told reporters.

But Kiev's political troubles are expected dominate talks later in the day with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

The alliance is braced for more criticism following Russian President Vladimir Putin's accusations earlier this week that Western governments had been interfering in the country's internal affairs.

Separately, US Secretary of State Colin Powell, bidding goodbye to his NATO counterparts, is expected to repeat demands for more contributions to alliance operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Washington has offered to place two provincial reconstruction teams under NATO command in Afghanistan as long as European NATO allies supply two more such teams, consisting of a few hundred soldiers and civilian workers.

The US also wants European allies to contribute about 300 military instructors plus support troops for a training mission being set up in Baghdad.

Thursday's gathering of foreign ministers follows an unprecedented ministerial meeting late Wednesday with Israel and six Arab nations, reflecting the alliance's drive to reinforce relations with its southern neighbours.

All countries have to work together to fight global terrorism, de Hoop Scheffer told reporters after a working dinner with foreign ministers from Israel, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco and Mauritania.

The meeting between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Middle East nations followed promises to strengthen ties with the region made by NATO foreign ministers at their meeting in Istanbul in June.

DPA

Subject: German news 

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