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Germany

Bush Boosts UN Seat Hopes for Germany

Bush and Schröder's meeting on Monday highlighted a new warmth in US-German relations, as the US president promised he would not block a German bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

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Will Bush's new stance on a UN seat give Schröder the last laugh?

Reforms to the United Nations dominated what US President George W. Bush called "frank" talks at the White House between the two leaders, who had been divided over German opposition to the US war in Iraq.

"We oppose no country's bid for the Security Council," Bush said to the obvious delight of the German leader who faces a re-election test in September.

Raised hopes

Germany has been part of a campaign with Brazil, India and Japan to get permanent seats on the council though it has withdrawn demands for a veto on resolutions that the five current permanent members get.

Gerhard Schröder bei George Bush in Washington

Schröder, Bush take questions in the Oval Office after their meeting

The United States has so far only endorsed Japan to join Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States as a permanent member.

"I was very pleased indeed to hear that there was no opposition, vis-a-vis Germany as such, from the president," German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder told reporters after the meeting.

"We are very much in agreement that this reform is duly and urgently needed. And it has always been clear that it is first the reform and then the candidacies to potential seats" that must be decided, Schröder added. "If you ask me about whether I see differences, I'd possibly say there are differences in the timing; we were pushing to have things happening very quickly," the chancellor added.

Focus on international activity

Schröder said that he had pleaded Germany's case for a permanent seat to Bush by highlighting its contribution to stabilization efforts in Afghanistan and the Balkans and to reconstruction efforts in Iraq.

"Since we're doing all these things internationally, we would very much hope that at some point in time we could also have a right to representation on the Security Council if there were the space," he said.

Gerhard Schröder bei George Bush in Washington

Schröder exits the White House after the meeting

The White House meeting added momentum to the Washington-Berlin thaw after their dispute over Iraq. Bush and Schröder last met in Germany in February. They will meet again at the G8 industrial powers' summit in Scotland next week.

Schröder needs good news as Germany will hold a general election in September and Schröder's Social Democratic Party (SPD) trails the conservative Christian Democrats in opinion polls.

Watchful eye on Iran

"As we say in Texas, 'This won't be his first rodeo'," commented Bush when asked about the chancellor's election hopes.

The US administration is also closely watching efforts by Germany, Britain and France to convince Iran against developing nuclear weapons -- efforts that will attract even more attention after the election of hardliner Mahmood Ahmadinejad as Iran's new president.

Bush said the United States would maintain its support for the European trio though the message to Iran remained blunt. "My message to the chancellor is that we continue working with Great Britain, France and Germany to send a focused, concerted, unified message that says the development of a nuclear weapon is unacceptable and a process which would enable Iran to develop a nuclear weapon is unacceptable," declared the US leader.

Asked about the legitimacy of Iran's election, Bush went on: "It's never free and fair when a group of people, unelected people, get to decide who's on the ballot."

The United States has threatened to seek UN Security Council sanctions against Iran if the talks with the European states fail.

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