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Germany

Fischer: Europe's Security Linked to Mideast's

German Foreign Minister Fischer said Sunday in Jordan that a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, the stabilization of Iraq and regional reforms were necessary to ensure Europe's security.

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Fischer is a well-known face in the Middle East

On the third leg of his five-day, five-nation Middle East tour, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer sounded off on crucial topics bedeviling the region.

Arriving in the Jordanian capital of Amman on Sunday from Syria, Fischer said European and Mid East security were interlinked.

Addressing a joint news conference with Jordanian counterpart, Marwan Moasher, Fischer said, " "When we talk of our security as Europeans, we are talking about the future of our neighbors the Middle East." He added, "If things are going badly wrong in the region, it will hurt our interests immediately and our security so it's not that we only have political and moral interests in peace."

Israeli pullout could be breakthrough

Fischer emphasized that finding a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict was key and indicated that an Israeli pullout from the Gaza Strip could provide a answer if it were part of a US-backed peace plan.

"We have come to the conclusion that the unilateral withdrawal and the complete dismantling of settlements in Gaza, if it's done in a proper way and part of the roadmap, it could be a real breakthrough to the peace process," Fischer said.

He added he would discuss the disengagement plan" to remove all 8,000 Jewish settlers from Gaza, where they live in fortified enclaves among 1.3 million Palestinians, with Israeli leaders in Jerusalem on Monday.

Palestinians fear the Gaza pullout will deny them a viable state in the West Bank and Gaza because Israel has made clear it will hold on to parts of the West Bank in return. Israel's position is backed by US President George Bush.

König Abdullah II von Jordan und Außenminister Joschka Fischer

King Abdullah II of Jordan, right, meets with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, in Amman, Jordan on Sunday.

At the same time, Fischer underlined that the European Union remained committed to the road map -- derailed for more than a year by violence on both sides -- as the only way to end the Arab-Israeli conflict. "We have a unified European position and we must move forward on this position because we think the region needs a fair compromise based on a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians," Fischer said.

A different view from that of the US

On America's invasion and continuing military engagement in Iraq, Fischer admitted Germany still had a different perspective from that of the US. "The US is our close friend and … most important ally, but I think we have a different view."

The foreign minister said Germany remained opposed to sending peacekeeping troops to Iraq, but said its contribution included rebuilding the country, providing humanitarian aid and debt relief and training Iraqi police.

On both Iraq and the Arab-Israeli conflict Europe had to play a role, he said. "If you put all three together, it's quite clear (that) we need American leadership," Fischer said. "But, on the other side, I don't believe this can be done alone by the United States."

"Europe will play an important role in the Quartet," Fischer said, referring to America's partners including Russia, the UN and the EU trying to resolve the Mideast conflict.

Iranian nuclear buildup "a nightmare"

Earlier, Fischer also offered his views on a possible Iranian nuclear arms buildup, an issue that has dominated relations between Tehran and Brussels in the past months. "It would be a nightmare for the region… if there'd be the beginning of an arms race - a nuclear arms race - in the region," Fischer said.

The US accuses Iran of using a nuclear energy program to conceal the production of nuclear weapons. Fischer said Sunday, Europe was looking to head off any dangerous confrontation with Iraq. "We are in intensive talks with Iran, and we hope the leadership in Tehran would not miscalculate the situation."


Fischer, who has already visited Lebanon and Syria, heads to Israel on Monday.

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