- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 6, 2002

HANOVER, Germany An exuberant Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder cranked up his election campaign yesterday, warning against military action to topple Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and saying his government is not prepared for "adventures" in the Middle East.
Breaking out of a recent phase of lackluster speeches and appearances, Mr. Schroeder started the rally in Hanover by bounding onto the stage flashing "V" for victory signs with both hands and followed by his wife.
Mr. Schroeder, whose center-left government is sagging in the polls, pledged to keep up pressure on Saddam to let U.N. weapons inspectors back in, but repeatedly questioned the wisdom of military action to topple him.
"I warn against speculating about war and military action, and tell those who are making plans for such actions to think not only about how they are going in, but to have a political concept," Mr. Schroeder said.
"We are ready for solidarity, but this land will not be prepared for adventures, as long as I'm in control," Mr. Schroeder said. "I believe we should keep up the pressure on Saddam Hussein, yes. But I'm not for playing around with war or military action."
His warning came amid escalating talk in Washington of a U.S. military operation against Saddam.
Mr. Schroeder fended off the suggestion that he was exploiting the issue for his campaign, arguing that a NATO conference on Iraq is to convene Sept. 23, the day after German elections, and voters needed to know where a future government stands on the issue.
Edmund Stoiber, his conservative challenger, has played down Iraq, arguing that "it makes no sense to discuss such hypothetical questions and possibly generate fear."
Yesterday's rally in Hanover capital of the western state of Lower Saxony, a Social Democratic stronghold where Mr. Schroeder served as governor before his 1998 election win was the first of 400 planned campaign events.
Analysts have said Mr. Schroeder should be focusing on his economic agenda, and the chancellor responded by calling on business leaders to think beyond their bottom lines.
"Those who have an economic power have to be responsible for our society," he said.
The Social Democrats have trailed in the polls for months as Mr. Stoiber focused on the economic slowdown that has forced Mr. Schroeder to lower his sights on cutting unemployment.
The chancellor had looked strained recently, with his pledges to reform the labor market all but buried and his image as a man of action faltering.
A couple of scandals have eroded Mr. Schroeder's popularity in the past three weeks. He fired his defense minister amid charges of financial impropriety, and his government was implicated in orchestrating the removal of the chief executive of phone giant Deutsche Telekom.
A poll conducted by the Forsa institute and published last Wednesday showed the opposition Christian Democrats with 42 percent and the Social Democrats with 35 percent of the vote a gap 3 points wider than a week earlier.

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