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European Press Review: Germany Wavering on Iraq

European newspapers on Thursday commented on Germany's seeming flip-flop on troop deployment in Iraq and Italian resistance to Berlin's aspirations to a permanent Security Council seat.

On Wednesday Germany’s Defense Minister, Peter Struck had appeared to indicate that Berlin could at some future date send troops to Iraq. However German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder then swiftly denied that his government would consider sending soldiers to Iraq.

The Thüringer Allgemeine wrote that as so often in politics, rigid commitments can become obstructive within a very short time. And so it is quite conceivable that Peter Struck was sent out on a reconnaissance mission to find out how seriously the general public was still taking Schröder’s present anti-war stance, the daily concluded.

London-based The Financial Times said that Struck reflected a very real debate inside the German government - namely how it will position itself for the future. The British daily reminded its readers that that there will probably be elections in Iraq next year and the resultant government will certainly appeal for international help. And if seeking to build credibility and legitimacy with Iraqis, it will likely ask the US to leave Iraq while seeking help from others. Germany as well as France and other EU members such as Spain would do well to start preparing their answers now, the paper cautioned.

Some European papers commented on the disagreement between Germany and Italy over Berlin’s bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council in a proposed UN shake-up. German Chancellor Schröder and Italian Premier Berlusconi failed to reach agreement on the issue at a meeting in Rome on Wednesday.

Italy's La Repubblica commented that Schröder and Berlusconi had opted to observe diplomatic decorum by stressing all the policies and positions that both governments agree on. But, the paper wrote, their main topic of disagreement remains unchanged. Germany wants a permanent seat on the Security Council. Opposition comes from Italy which is proposing an EU seat. And the other not so small bone of contention between the two countries is Iraq, the paper noted.

Another Italian paper, Corriere Della Sera lamented that the two leaders did not even try to settle the issue. Schröder and Berlusconi chose to openly recognize that they are not of the same opinion, it wrote. They preferred to highlight the issues that they agree upon. The German-Italian summit only emphasized the large gulf between the two countries which are supposed to be friends, it concluded.

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