Schroeder to tour Asia; securityfears may axe Afghan stop
30 September 2004 , BERLIN - Security fears may force German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to cancel a visit to Afghanistan during a four-nation Asia trip next week highlighted by a European Union and Asia summit in Hanoi. A German official - speaking on the condition of anonymity - said Schroeder might eliminate the Afghan leg of his 5 to 11 October trip - with stops in India, Pakistan and Vietnam - due to concerns after three soldiers were injured Wednesday in a grenade attack on a German military post in
30 September 2004
BERLIN - Security fears may force German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to cancel a visit to Afghanistan during a four-nation Asia trip next week highlighted by a European Union and Asia summit in Hanoi.
A German official - speaking on the condition of anonymity - said Schroeder might eliminate the Afghan leg of his 5 to 11 October trip - with stops in India, Pakistan and Vietnam - due to concerns after three soldiers were injured Wednesday in a grenade attack on a German military post in Afghanistan.
Germany has over 2,000 soldiers in Afghanistan and Uzbekistan as part of NATO's 7,000-member International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) created by the United Nations in 2001 after the overthrow of the Taliban by a United States-led coalition.
The official said Schroeder is supposed to fly into the Afghan capital using a German Luftwaffe (air force) transport plane rather than his normal executive Airbus.
"We will be in close contact with our intelligence services on the situation there," said the official.
Schroeder is scheduled to meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai as well as German troops and UN officials.
The Afghan visit is only a small part of the trip which is mainly focused on building stronger political and trade ties in the region.
Officials in Berlin admit that given historical and cultural links, Britain and the United States have clear economic advantages in India and Pakistan.
But India's projected need for USD 500 billion worth of infrastructure projects through 2012 meant Germany had excellent chances of improving its trade relations, the official said.
Bilateral trade between Germany and India is presently worth about EUR five billion annually.
Schroeder will be accompanied in India by executives from 22 German companies including insurance giant Allianz, Lufthansa, media heavyweight Bertelsmann and MAN-Ferrostahl. But no major trade deals are expected during the trip, officials said.
The Chancellor is due to have talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and give a foreign policy speech at the Rajiv Ghandi Foundation.
Schroeder then travels to Vietnam where he will take part in the fifth Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) from 7 to 9 October.
Leaders of the 25 European Union states and 13 Asian nations will hold talks on global security developments, the world economy and other issues including the human rights situation in Burma/Myanmar.
Moves to deepen multilateral approaches to international relations and bolstering the World Trade Organisation (WTO) - as opposed to regional free trade agreements - will also top the agenda, officials said.
"Some 50 percent of the total global GDP will be represented at the meeting," noted the official.
Schroeder is due to have bilateral meetings on the ASEM sidelines with leaders of Thailand, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and probably a number of other nations, said the official.
After separate talks with Vietnamese leaders, Schroeder travels to Pakistan 10 October for a meeting with President Pervez Musharraf focused on what German officials term "a dialogue with enlightened Islam" aimed at taking the wind from the sails of extremists.
Terrorism and Afghanistan will be the other major issues at the the meeting, the official said.
Schroeder will be accompanied in Pakistan by a separate group of business executives from Germany's "Mittelstand" (small and medium-sized companies).
Officials stressed, however, that no major trade or political deals were expected in Pakistan aside from a EUR 46 million contract for railway locomotives.
Subject: German news