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Germany

Fischer Mends Fences on U.S. Trip

Germany's Foreign Minister exchanged friendly words with Colin Powell in Washington on Wednesday, but relations between the two longtime allies remain bruised.

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Is Germany still behind America?

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell met in Washington on Wednesday and took pains to portray recent strains in their countries' relations as a dispute among friends that will soon be overcome.

"I would say that we are two friends, two allies that occasionally find themselves with areas of disagreement and some rough spots," Powell said at a press conference following the 30-minute meeting. However, he said, "in due course we will get over these disagreements and find ways to resolve any differences that may exist."

Fischer, whose difficult task it is to repair frayed relations with Washington, described the two countries as friends. "We are close allies," the foreign minister said. "And I think if there are differences and turbulences, we will discuss these problems inside the family."

Nevertheless, differences remain -- mostly with regard to Iraq -- because Germany is still opposed to any military intervention. In Washington, Fischer reiterated Germany's position that the war against international terrorism should take higher priority than any action against Iraq.

Fischer was the first high-ranking minister of the new German government coalition to hold bilateral talks with the Bush administration after what some regard as fierce anti-American rhetoric during the German election campaign which had poisoned U.S.-German relations.

A bad episode in U.S.-Germany relations

Repeatedly during his re-election campaign, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder said he would not support American military "adventurism" into Iraq; nor would he send involve any German troops, even under a United Nations mandate. Rhetoric between the two countries intensified after Schröder's Justice Minister, Herta Däubler-Gmelin, compared Bush's methods to those of Adolf Hitler.

But Powell indicated the incident would soon be regarded as a mere episode in the history between the nations.

"We have a problem and we'll get over that problem for the simple reason that Germany and the United States are two nations that are bound together by common values, common beliefs and democracy and all the other things that have kept us together as strong partners for the last half-century."

Despite the feel-good tenor of the meeting, Fischer has no plans to meet with officials at the White House and conservative commentators in the U.S. continued to sharply criticize Germany's opposition to the use of force against Iraq.

In an editorial in the "Washington Post" on Wednesday, former US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger wrote that "by pursuing its own course on Iraq and disregarding the United Nations, self-righteous isolation would beckon for Germany reminiscent of Wilhelmine Germany before World War I."

Hinting at a Bush-Schröder meeting

Diplomats are still wrangling over the question of how President Bush and Chancellor Schröder can meet again face to face. Both sides hinted in Washington at the possibility of a meeting as soon as next month.

"There's a summit meeting coming up in Prague at the end of November and all of the heads of state and government will be there and I'm sure they'll all have a chance to see each other at one point or another in the context of that summit meeting," Powell said.

On Thursday, Fischer travels to New York, where he will meet with Kofi Annan to discuss the latest developments in a UN Iraq resolution. Germany will be a non-permanent member of the Security Council in January and supports a new Iraq resolution, Fischer said on Wednesday in Washington.

"We have an interest in an agreement between the members of the security council because we think if there is an agreement, this will be a strong message to the regime in Baghdad," Fischer said. "Then, we think, that ‘Blix’ (Hans Blix – the chief UN arms inspector) must start immediately his job and go into Iraq and do what he really has to do."

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