- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Germany expressed concern yesterday that some European countries, apparently acting under U.S. pressure to help the coalition forces in Iraq, have pulled their troops out of Afghanistan, leaving behind a still dangerous environment.

While resisting the Bush administration’s calls for contributions to the security effort in Iraq, Berlin said it was ready to provide humanitarian assistance.

Visiting German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer told reporters after a meeting with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell that his country’s “business community is ready to play its role in the reconstruction, if it is warranted and if we know more details about the reconstruction.”

“We are open to discussing what could be our role in the reconstruction, but our position linked to the question of sending military troops is unchanged,” Mr. Fischer said.

Recent polls show that 91 percent of Germans oppose a military role for their country in Iraq, while 9 percent support it.

Mr. Powell said he and his guest had not discussed any specific U.S. requests to Germany.

He noted that some nations “have expressed the desire for more of a mandate from the United Nations” before they can contribute to the Iraq reconstruction effort.

But he said U.N. Resolution 1483, which was adopted in May, “has sufficient authority for nations who are looking for a U.N. mandate to participate in stabilization or peacekeeping activities.”

India turned down a request from the Bush administration this week, and French President Jacques Chirac said that sending French troops to Iraq was inconceivable under the current U.N. framework.

A senior German official very familiar with Mr. Fischer’s thinking told a group of reporters over breakfast at the German Embassy that Berlin has “no intention to reduce” its military presence in Afghanistan as part of the NATO force.

In fact, the official said, “we have some problems at the moment with force generation from NATO in Afghanistan,” because “some European countries are pulling forces” out of there to send them to Iraq.

He indicated that those nations are being “persuaded” to do so, apparently referring to the United States, but he declined to mention names.

Britain, Spain, Italy, Denmark and the Netherlands have either sent or committed troops to Iraq.

“We should carefully examine [the status of the NATO forces] in Afghanistan before we start calling NATO to different places,” the senior German official said.

He also said it had been “very difficult” for his country to disagree with the United States, its “most important ally outside Europe,” over the use of force in Iraq. He pointed out that Germany had opened its airspace to U.S. aircraft and sent a team of chemical experts to Kuwait to assist the coalition in case of a chemical attack.

The official said he regretted that the Europeans had “never clarified” their “strategic view” of the post-September 11 world or sat down with the United States to discuss a common strategy.

“Why don’t we start this debate together?” he said.

Mr. Fischer, who also met with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice yesterday and is scheduled to hold talks with Vice President Dick Cheney today, praised the administration for its new Middle East peace effort.

“It was a very courageous step from the president and the secretary of state to move forward in the Middle East conflict,” he said.

“We appreciate it very much that America is back in the driver’s seat to push forward the peace process based on implementation of the road map.”

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