Schroeder, Bush make up at G8 summit
11 June 2004SEA ISLAND, GEORGIA – The G8 summit of the world's leading industrialised nations wound up yesterday with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder using the meeting at Georgia's luxury Sea Island resort to restore ties with the host, US President George W. Bush.
11 June 2004
SEA ISLAND, GEORGIA – The G8 summit of the world's leading industrialised nations wound up yesterday with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder using the meeting at Georgia's luxury Sea Island resort to restore ties with the host, US President George W. Bush.
In contrast, the French President Jacques Chirac, who together with Schroeder helped to spearhead European opposition to the Iraq war, played the political bad boy at this year's summit by disrupting new trans-Atlantic harmony with a Gallic "non" to calls by his American hosts for a bigger NATO role in Iraq.
Chirac's comments made banner media headlines around the world this week, stealing coverage of the Group of Eight's (G8's) initiative aimed at promoting democracy and reform throughout the Mideast.
Asked by reporters about Chirac's reservations over NATO in Iraq, the German chancellor took a strikingly different position.
"We will not block this," Schroeder said.
After the briefing, German officials scrambled to insist there was no real discord between Paris and Berlin.
"There are no differences between Germany and France over a deployment of NATO in Iraq," said Schroeder, according to a later statement by his chief spokesman Bela Anda.
Schroeder said it was not a question of NATO taking control in Iraq but rather of using the alliance to train Iraqi security forces as well as for other tasks.
This was confirmed by a senior US official who said that with or without NATO, there would not be large numbers of new troops going to Iraq, where American-led coalition forces now number more than 160,000.
NATO, 15 of whose 26 member states have troops serving in Iraq, is currently limited to providing logistical support to the Polish-run sector in Iraq.
On Wednesday, Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair called for an expanded NATO role in Iraq but declined to give details on exactly what they wanted. Concrete proposals were expected at NATO's Istanbul summit on 28 to 29 June.
President Chirac promptly rebuffed them.
"It does not fit with the vocation of NATO to intervene in Iraq," Chirac declared.
Contrasting with the Bush-Chirac differences, Schroeder and Bush used the relaxed summit atmosphere to forge a new working relationship.
Maybe it was the balmy weather, beach and the palm trees that gave the final push to both leaders to bury the hatchet after their Iraq war feud.
As the two leaders met on the G8 sidelines, Bush's dog Barney also helped break the ice by taking a snooze between their feet.
Schroeder, who thrives in warmer regions, was delighted about the weather and swiftly followed Bush's dress code advice for the summit and shed his customary tie and jacket.
His attire contrasted with Chirac, who was the only leader stiffly dressed in full tie and jacket for the working sessions for the G8, which consists of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States.
American officials were strongly upbeat after the private meeting between Bush and Schroeder on the G8 sidelines, saying the talks had been "very warm".
"We and the Germans have come back together," a senior official said.
Asked about the praise being heaped on him by Bush aides, the chancellor smiled and said, "It's nice that this is what's being talked about."
"We know we have to depend on each other and sometimes having disagreements is just a part of this," said Schroeder, adding that the key to good German-American ties was that both nations had a deep set of shared values.
"The [United States] is the only remaining superpower, and one must learn how to deal with that, and the last six months have shown that we can do this," Schroeder said.
Such a detente would have been unthinkable a year ago when the US and German leaders were locked in an angry row over Schroeder's use of his anti-Iraq war stance to win re-election in 2002.
US and German officials sunk into a tit-for-tat cycle of insults that reached its low point when a Schroeder cabinet member compared Bush with Adolf Hitler.
The minister resigned, but the damage was done, and US officials described German-American ties as "poisoned". Bush broke off contact with Schroeder, and the two leaders did not talk for almost 12 months.
But that's all over now, stressed the US official: "Last year belongs ... belongs to the category of history."
In a further Schroeder-Chirac contrast, the chancellor underlined the importance of attending Friday's 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," Schroeder said.
Chirac has declined to attend and became testy when asked why he was not going by French reporters.
Schroeder admitted that 25 years ago, while leading the youth wing of his Social Democratic Party (SPD), he had often disagreed with Reagan.
But then he paused and added that some of the positions he had held as a younger man had changed.
Subject: German news