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Germany

German Conservatives Join Chorus of U.S. Critics

After providing initial support for the US, chancellor candidate Edmund Stoiber says he, like, incumbent Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, will only support German participation in an Iraq invasion under a UN mandate.

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Just say no: Edmund Stoiber not in favour of a U.S. strike against Iraq

During Sunday night's debate against Gerhard Schröder, Bavarian Premier Edmund Stoiber said he believed the incumbent had empowered Iraqi President Saddam Hussein by telling the media he would not support the participation of any German troops in a US-led invasion against Iraq.

Fast forward to Wednesday and you get an all-together different picture. Stoiber made what appeared to be a 180-degree turn, saying German troops should only be deployed to battle Iraq under a United Nations mandate, and that the country should not support any solo effort by the Americans to topple the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. At the same time, he called for the international community to react with "greater determination" to get UN weapons inspectors back inside Iraq.

"The monopoly on the decision and action in this question lies with the United Nation," Stoiber said. "For a country to go it alone without a mandate from the international community is not something we will agree to."

Cheney makes case for attack

The apparent shift came on the heels of statements made on Monday by U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, who said the threat of Iraq developing nuclear weapons in the near future justified an attack against it. Iraq, he said, would "seek domination of the entire Middle East, take control of a great portion of the world's energy supplies, directly threaten America's friends throughout the region and subject the United States or any other nation to nuclear blackmail."

Then, on Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said that though the U.S. would seek the support for a possible strike against Iraq, it would not wait for international "unanimity."

Until now, the opposition Christian Democratic Union and Christian Social Union parties have been restrained on the Iraq issue, in an effort to show support for the United States, which is under increasing pressure in Europe because of its possible plans for an invasion of Iraq.

Germany, France create united front

But on Wednesday, Stoiber issued U.S. President George W. Bush with a verbal reminder of the pledge to German leaders in Berlin in May that he would advise his German and European partners on any possible plans for an invasion of Iraq.

He also said that in a half-hour telephone conversation, French President Jacques Chirac had stated that Germany and France were in agreement that no single nation should seek its own solution to the Iraq problem. They also agreed that the EU needed to develop a common position on Iraq.

One day earlier, Schröder responded to Cheney and Rumsfeld's sharp anti-Hussein rhetoric by once again ruling out the participation of his military in any potential US-led attempt to oust the Iraqi president.

Schröder: "A serious error"

In an interview with the German private television broadcaster RTL, Schröder accused the Bush administration of shifting strategy away from allowing UN weapons inspectors into Iraq and towards removing Hussein.

"If you're going to change the objective," Schröder said, "Then you have to take full responsibility for the consequences. If you remove someone by means of military force, then it will be difficult to persuade that person to allow inspectors into his country. I believe that changing the objective has proven to be a serious error."

Fischer: "It's something we can't endorse."

Meanwhile, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said on Wednesday that unless the US can prove that Saddam Hussein has nuclear weapons, then any attempt to remove him could bring unbearable stress into an already volatile situation.

"We are seriously concerned that when steps are taken now that aren't completely thought out, then the result won't be more peace and stability in the Middle East, but the exact opposite," he said.

"We're in an extremely dangerous situation, with the danger of conflict between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. We also have serious problems in Afghanistan that need to be resolved. For these and other reasons, we consider any attempt at a regime change in Iraq to be extremely risky and something we can't endorse."

Fischer also jabbed Stoiber for his policy U-turn, describing his transformation from Sunday's debate to Wednesday as "astonishing."

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