In speeches before Germany's parliament, Chancellor Schröder and Foreign Minister Fischer say they are unswayed by Bush's UN speech but laud him for reaffirming the importance of the United Nations.
Gerhard Schröder: Making the case against an Iraq invasion
On the eve of his speech before the United Nations General Assembly, a major American newspaper wrote that U.S. President George W. Bush crafted his speech in order to sway Germany's Gerhard Schröder and other European leaders wary of a war against Iraq in his direction.
But Bush's speech apparently did little to influence the opinion of the German government, where concern persists that the U.S., acting as a global police force, will stretch the long arm of American law into Baghdad and bring further instability to a volatile region.
The contentious issue on Friday dominated the final session of the Bundestag, Germany's parliament, before Sept. 22 elections.
Views on how to proceed split down party lines, with the red-green government, led by Schröder and Green Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer reiterating their position that Germany would not participate in any military action against Iraq and the conservative opposition showing a willingness to consider Bush's UN ultimatum.
Schröder: Bush partly correct
"His (Bush's) demand that the regime in Baghdad must comply with the U.N. resolutions is partly correct," Schröder told members of the German parliament, the Bundestag. "It was never debatable that weapons inspectors must return to the country. But what remains disputable is whether another objective should be allowed to replace this objective as the focal point of the discussion."
Schröder said it was a positive development that Bush had pushed the issue of U.N. resolutions back to the center of the debate and praised Bush for reaffirming the UN's importance. He added Germany would use all "diplomatic" and "economic" possibilities to support efforts to force Saddam Hussein into compliance.
However, the chancellor reiterated his concern that any military action against Iraq could cause the loosely-knit international coalition against terror to unravel.
Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer (photo) joined Schröder Friday in defending Germany's stance. Fischer said Bush's speech did little to allay his concerns about America's intentions in Iraq. The conditions imposed by the president, he said, "are anything but simple."
Opposition attacks 'anti-American' campaign tactics
With barely a week to go until federal elections on Sept. 22, opposition politicians took advantage of the Bundestag session to criticize the government's recent foreign policy position, which has frayed relations with Washington and also threatened the stability of Europe's joint defence and foreign policy.
Despite the willingness of other European leaders – including Britain's Tony Blair to France's Jacqués Chirac – to consider military intervention under a U.N. mandate, Schröder and Fischer have steadfastly refused to do so.
Bavarian Premier Edmund Stoiber (photo), who is seeking to unseat Schröder as the joint candidate for the conservative Christian Democratic Union and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, accused the red-green government of "creating an anti-American atmosphere in its campaign."
Stoiber warned that, with its "anti-American" position, the red-green government threatened to isolate Germany from other European countries.
But he said he doubted that Germany's army, the Bundeswehr, would be asked to participate in any military intervention, anyway.
In words that seemed to mirror warnings issued against Bush lately, Christian Democratic Union chairwoman Angela Merkel cautioned against Germany "going its own way" on the Iraq issue. She said the government's current position could not be maintained and accused Schröder of changing his position from "unlimited solidarity" with the U.S. to "unlimited unilateralism."
EU lauds Bush speech
As the Iraq debate raged on in Germany, it reduced intensity in other parts of Europe on Friday. Speaking for the European Union, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Bush's speech proved that the United States was interested in pursuing a multilateralist approach. Other European ministers echoed Rasmussen, saying they were pleased that Bush had agreed to involve the U.N. in the final decision.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush's staunchest ally in Europe, greeted the speech "warmly" said a spokesperson. Blair said the United Kingdom would be heavily involved in shaping the UN resolution, talks on which are expected by the end of the month.
BBC: British troops mobilizing
The comments came amid reports the U.K.'s armed forces had already begun preparing itself for the "biggest operation in years" according to the BBC. British media said the army was stockpiling weapons, supplies and military craft in a harbor in the south of the country.