German, French leadersmeet for talks

15th June 2004, Comments 0 comments

15 June 2004, AACHEN - German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac met in Aachen Monday evening for another in a series of "informal" talks with an open agenda.

15 June 2004

AACHEN - German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac met in Aachen Monday evening for another in a series of "informal" talks with an open agenda.

Crowds of cheering local residents welcomed the two leaders as they made their way on foot through the main street of the ancient capital of the Emperor Charlemagne under the rosy glow of mid-summer evening skies to their private talks.

No details were divulged, but analysts said the two men were certain to have discussed their differing views on a larger Nato role in Iraq.

At the Sea Island summit, Schroeder contradicted Chirac by declaring Berlin will not block a bigger Nato role in Iraq sought by the US.

Schroeder, who used this year's Group of Eight (G8) summit to restore ties with US President George W. Bush, made his remarks in direct reply to Chirac, with whom he led European opposition to the Iraq war.

Nato is currently limited to providing logistical support to the Polish-run sector in Iraq. Fifteen of NATO's 26 member states have troops serving in Iraq.

Schroeder stressed that Germany would not send troops to Iraq.

President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have called for an expanded Nato role in Iraq but declined to give details on exactly what they wanted. Concrete proposals are expected at NATO's Istanbul summit on 28 and 29 June.

President Chirac promptly rebuffed their call.

"It does not fit with the vocation of Nato to intervene in Iraq," said Chirac in remarks at the G8 summit being hosted by Bush at Sea Island, Georgia in the southern US.

Analysts said the Schroeder-Chirac split over Nato in Iraq is significant because it hints at a loosening of the close political friendship forged by both men with their joint opposition to the war.

In past months Franco-German ties have frayed with Schroeder expressing anger over the French policy of protecting its industry from German takeovers while backing a high-profile French corporate takeover of a mainly German pharmaceuticals company.

In a further Schroeder-Chirac contrast, the German leader made a point of attending the funeral in Washington of former US President Ronald Reagan.

"I want to pay my respects to a president who did a great deal for German unification," said Schroeder.

President Chirac declined to attend the Reagan funeral and became testy when French reporters asked him why he was not going.

DPA

Subject: German news

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