- The Washington Times - Friday, February 27, 2004

President Bush and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, publicly patched up their strained relationship yesterday, with both pledging to cooperate to end terrorism and strife in the Middle East.

Mr. Schroeder, snubbed by the president for 17 months after the German leader tried to persuade European allies to oppose the U.S. war, came to the White House for the first time in two years.

Mr. Bush was straightforward. “There’s no question we differed on Iraq,” the president said after the two met in the Oval Office. “We have differences, in the past. But there’s nothing wrong with friends having differences. And we have both committed to put the differences behind us and move forward.”

Mr. Schroeder, who helped thwart a U.N. resolution backing the war, was conciliatory and distanced himself from his active opposition.

“We talked not about the past. We very much agreed on that. We have to talk about the present and the future now. We both have a great interest in seeing a stable, democratic Iraq develop,” he said.

Before the war began, Mr. Bush was displeased that the German leader joined forces with French President Jacques Chirac and opposed a proposed U.N. resolution calling for military intervention in Iraq.

But after the war, Mr. Schroeder began to work with the United States, offering troops for Afghanistan and even signing on to forgive billions owed to Germany by Iraq. Some of that conciliation, though, was forced by the Bush administration.

Less than a week after the president announced the United States would bar nations that opposed the Iraq war from lucrative reconstruction contracts, both France and Germany announced they were prepared to offer substantial debt relief to the war-torn country.

The president also expressed pleasure with Germany’s expanded role in post-war Afghanistan, where it is training Afghan police officers, aiding reconstruction efforts, and contributing the most troops to an international security force.

About Afghanistan, the German leader said: “It is a contribution that we make. It is a contribution that we also make in the fight against international terrorism, and we intend to continue to make that contribution.”

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