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Germany

Berlin Contradicts EU's Solana on Iraq

The German government on Saturday reiterated it would not send troops to help stabilize Iraq, contradicting EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who said Berlin was no longer opposed helping out militarily.

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German soldiers are unlikely to join their U.S. counterparts in Iraq.

Germany, one of the staunchest opponents of the U.S.-led war in Iraq, remains steadfast in its refusal to send soldiers to Iraq, despite growing worries amongst the international community that the country is becoming increasingly unstable.

A government spokesman denied Berlin’s position had changed after EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana reportedly said German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder was no longer “fundamentally” against sending troops. Solana met with Schröder last week and later gave an interview to the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

Javier Solana

European Union for Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana

“Germany at the moment rejects deploying soldiers to Iraq – but not fundamentally. If NATO is asked by the United Nations to take part in the stabilization of the country, then there is a new question of military engagement for each member of the alliance,” Solana told the paper.

According to the German news agency DPA, the government spokesman said Schröder had made it “very clear” to Solana that Berlin was sticking to previous position against military involvement and that his comments were possibly based on a misunderstanding.

German armed forces stretched thin

The was to oust Iraqi Saddam Hussein caused the worst break between long-time allies Washington in Berlin in decades. This summer, U.S. President George Bush’s icy relations with Schröder finally began to thaw again.

But the German leader has rejected a military role in postwar Iraq, saying Berlin’s strapped armed forces were already pushed to the limit with peacekeeping in Afghanistan and anti-terror operations on the Horn of Africa and elsewhere.

According to a poll undertaken last week for the Der Spiegel news magazine, Germans remain strongly opposed to getting involved in Iraq. In a survey of 1,000 people, an overwhelming 76 percent were against German military participation even with a U.N. mandate. Only 19 percent of those asked supported sending troops to help the United States. In the wake of a deadly bombing on Thursday in the southern Iraqi town of Nasiriya, which killed 19 Italian policemen, pressure has increased on Washington to find a solution to the increasing violence in the country. The U.S.-backed Iraqi governing council announced on Saturday that America hopes to hand over control of the country to interim Iraqi government next June.

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