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German Press Review: Bush Needs Schröder

German newspapers on Monday viewed the improvement in relations between Berlin and Washington pragmatically. President Bush needs Chancellor Schröder and Germany's support in Afghanistan and Iraq, they said.

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Signs of happier times ahead for German-U.S. relations?

The Stuttgarter Nachrichten asked, rather rhetorically, what made George W. Bush suddenly feel the need to say nice things about Germany and Chancellor Gerhard Schröder? "One has to assume that the U.S. president has made his peace overtures for domestic political reasons," the paper surmised. "The Bush administration is under increasing pressure to explain itself with regard to the Iraq war. So it would seem sensible to be reconciled with Germany -- one of the strongest critics of the invasion -- especially if the red-green coalition government is prepared to take part in a NATO-led operation in Iraq. The chancellor need not kowtow to Washington -- he can now go to America confident in his role as an important ally whose international commitment to peace has President Bush's full appreciation," the paper commented.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung adopted an equally pragmatic view, saying Bush praised Schröder because the U.S. president needs him. The paper recalled how nine months ago the two leaders talked at the NATO summit in Prague -- or rather, they had a scheduled meeting. "At that summit, the U.S. president did everything he could to demonstrate his acute disdain for the Chancellor -- even French Presidednt Jacques Chirac got better treatment," the paper wrote. Now, all that seems to be forgotten, and Bush is saying he’s looking forward to delivering his personal thanks to Schröder for his country’s efforts in Afghanistan. But, the paper warned, "we shouldn’t get too sentimental. Bush hasn’t decided all of a sudden that he likes Schröder. It’s just that he needs him. And Germany must now commit troops to help rebuild Iraq, the paper concluded" and added, "Though the war may have been wrong, reconstruction is nevertheless important.

"It was about time," wrote Die Welt, "that German foreign policy got back on track." The Berlin daily applauded German Defense Minister Peter Struck’s support for greater engagement in Afghanistan and the possibility of sending troops to Iraq under NATO command. "The government has evidently realized that such moves open up a number of opportunities," the paper said. "They’ll help the bilateral relationship with Washington; they’ll mean having a say in Iraq’s future, and give new international weight to NATO. And finally, the German government will once again be able to stand up to France." The paper was of the opinion that the quarrel with Washington forced Germany into "an embarrassingly servile relationship with Paris, which meant Berlin was forced to back France’s post-colonial interests in the Congo."

Following last week’s conference on HIV and AIDS in Durban, Die Welt said the South African government "grossly underestimated the scale of the problem, almost to the point of committing national suicide." A World Bank report recently predicted that unless the government takes urgent action against AIDS, the country’s economy will collapse. Now, the paper wrote, finally a program is to be introduced to fight the disease, and the United Nations is contributing 41 million dollars. "This alone won’t solve South Africa’s AIDS problem, but a decline in the number of AIDS deaths over the next few years will help the country to get back on its feet," the paper concluded

The Frankfurter Rundschau was not so sure whether the outcome of the conference was grounds to laugh or cry. "It’s certainly good news that after years of dithering, the South African government is finally considering making life-saving drugs available to the more than five million people infected with HIV in the country," it wrote. But the paper asked why it had to take so long. "Every day, 600 South Africans die of AIDS – the vast majority would have been saved had Thabo Mbeki’s government acted sooner," the paper lamented. "Even if the President were to admit responsibility – and he hasn’t – history wouldn’t excuse him."

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