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German Politician: "Rumsfeld Is No Diplomat"

While Germany thinks about the need for more reports from arms inspectors in Iraq, Germans and French assail the U.S. defense secretary's criticism of "old Europe."

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Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: Not a popular man in Europe.

Politicians in Berlin and Paris expressed their disapproval on Thursday at the latest salvos volleyed by U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld over Germany and France's reluctance to move forward with plans for a U.S.-led war against Iraq.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld criticized German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and French President Jacques Chirac on Wednesday for their public demands that United Nations weapons inspectors be given more time to do their jobs before any military action could be taken. As a permanent member of the Security Council, France could veto any resolution, raising the possibility that U.S. President George W. Bush would be forced to wage war without the support of the international body.

Rumsfeld dismissed critical comments made by Schröder and Chirac, responding to reporters queries by saying: "You're thinking of Germany and France. I don't. I think that's the old Europe."

"Problematic" comments that are "deeply insulting"

Rumsfeld's shoot-from-the-hip comments drew swift criticism across Germany and France on Thursday -- and even came from some unlikely quarters, including senior members of Germany's main opposition party, historically a close ally of Washington.

Angela Merkel, chairwoman of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) described Rumsfeld's comments as "problematic," adding: "I don't think it is right to make such noises -- calling us the 'old Europe.'" Her colleague Volker Rühe, who heads the German parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, went a step further, saying "Rumsfeld is no diplomat."

European Parliament member Bernd Posselt, a member of the CDU'S sister party, the Christian Social Union, admonished Rumsfeld for his "neocolonialist" statements and called on him to think of Europe as a "partner" rather than a "protectorate."

The feathers seemed even more ruffled in France, where Economics Minister Francis Mer said he was "deeply insulted" by the defense secretary's comments.

"He hit the nail on the head"

But some political observers approved of, even greeted the comments. Bernhard May of the German Council of Foreign Relations said he thought Rumsfeld was taking a negative approach to achieve a positive result: to show the Europeans that they are needed in the confrontation with Iraq.

"Only when we work together can we achieve something," May told DW-WORLD. "If we don't work together, then the alliance becomes weakened and the pressure on Saddam lessens."

Meanwhile, from his office in the former German capital of Bonn, Professor Christian Hacke told DW-WORLD he agreed with Rumsfeld's comments. "He really hit the nail on the head," Hacke said. The problem, he said, is that Germany is pursuing a "catastrophic" policy in its dealings with the United States. "We have turned the United States into an opponent of our own diplomacy," he said

Germany to demand second report from inspectors

Officials in Germany's government sought to play down the spat. "Mr. Rumsfeld described the Europeans as being old," Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said on Thursday. "And, in fact, the cultures and countries are older than the USA."

But the rhetorical skirmish with Rumsfeld comes at a difficult time for Schröder's government, which has said it will ask the U.N. Security Council to require its weapons inspectors to issue another report on their work after they turn in their much-anticipated first review next Monday.

"We want the inspectors to keep working," Fischer said on Thursday.

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