Schroeder: Notroops for Iraq
25 February 2004 , BERLIN - German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder will stick to his "no" on troops for Iraq at talks Friday with US President George W. Bush while underlining Berlin's other Iraqi rebuilding contributions, senior officials said. "We are standing firm: no German soldiers in Iraq," said Schroeder in an NDR TV interview. A senior official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, termed this a "red line" of which the US government was well aware. The chancellor travels to Chicago on Thursday wher
25 February 2004
BERLIN - German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder will stick to his "no" on troops for Iraq at talks Friday with US President George W. Bush while underlining Berlin's other Iraqi rebuilding contributions, senior officials said.
"We are standing firm: no German soldiers in Iraq," said Schroeder in an NDR TV interview.
A senior official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, termed this a "red line" of which the US government was well aware.
The chancellor travels to Chicago on Thursday where he will make a foreign and trade policy speech before meeting Bush in the White House on Friday.
Germany opposed the Iraq war and ties with the US were deeply chilled over the issue before beginning to thaw late last year.
"Our common view is that we must now look to the future," said Schroeder.
In order to build positive momentum, Schroeder will stress areas of cooperation with the US in Iraq, said officials.
These include German training of Iraqi police, vocational training programmes, water and energy rebuilding aid and rebuilding of Iraqi ministries.
Germany has also taken a lead role in seeking to forgive and reschedule some of Iraq's USD 120 billion (EUR 95 billion) to USD 140 billion debt of which USD five billion is held by Germany, said officials.
Preliminary rescheduling talks were taking place among members of the Paris Club of creditor nations with a key issue being moves to get Arab Gulf States to moderate demands for USD 100 billion in reparations from past wars, the officials noted.
The officials declined to say how much Iraqi debt was likely to be forgiven. They also stressed that fresh funds going to Iraq had to be for rebuilding - not paying off old debts.
Other top issues for the Schroeder-Bush talks will be Afghanistan, where German troops have been deployed, as well as the Arab-Israeli conflict, Iran, Turkey's bid to join the European Union and attempts to reunify Cyprus, the officials said.
Schroeder and Bush are expected to discuss parallels between the US call for a greater Mideast reform initiative and similar proposals earlier this month by German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer.
Economic ties will be another top theme with Schroeder likely to express concern over the US budget deficit of USD 520 million, officials said.
German-American trade and investment is massive with the US being Germany's most important trade partner outside Europe.
German exports to the US were worth EUR 57 billion for the period January to November in 2003 and German imports from the US for the same period were valued at EUR 36.2 billion, official figures show.
Direct German investment in the US is worth USD 287 billion dollars while Americans have invested over EUR 56 billion in Germany.
Nevertheless, there has been friction over a US decision to bar German firms for bidding for contracts in Iraq.
"It would be a surprise if (German firms) were satisfied with the current situation," said an official, adding that Berlin saw hope for a shift when a new Iraqi government takes power.
Schroeder will also raise concerns over the record value of the euro over the dollar which is cramping German exports by making them too expensive. The euro was pegged at USD 1.2629 in Frankfurt on Wednesday.
"The American president knows the impact of exchange rates on Germany and Europe," said the official, adding that Schroeder hoped to bolster understanding of problems faced.
The Chancellor's trip will be his third visit to the US since September.
Although relations between Bush and Schroeder have warmed, both countries went through their worst bilateral crisis in the post-war era over Iraq.
"The feeling was that after the Second World War the US helped Germany when it was needed. But when it became critical for us you didn't help us," said US Ambassador to Germany Daniel Coats in a Berliner Zeitung newspaper interview.
Coats added: "But despite this, relations below this political level always remained intact."
Bush refused to speak with Schroeder for almost a year before breaking the ice at the summit of G8 industrial nations last June in France.
German officials admitted it would be too much to describe the Bush-Schroeder meeting in terms of any great enthusiasm.
Schroeder will not be extending any invitation to Bush to visit Germany or his home in Hanover, said an official.
But the officials also pointed out Schroeder will not meet Democratic Party frontrunner Senator John Kerry or other candidates in the race for US presidential elections in November during his trip.
Subject: German news