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Europe

German Press Review: German-American Tolerance

German papers on Friday discussed the assertion that British intelligence services spied on UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. They also looked at German chancellor's U.S. visit.

The Handelsblatt from Düsseldorf wrote that Tony Blair will be able to bring the Annan spying scandal under control. However, Blair is facing a bigger problem - the scandal will once more reinforce the impression that the Labour leader isn’t telling the whole truth, and jockeyed Britain into war using all kinds of tricks, according to the daily. Blair can no longer hope that with the positive report that he received from Lord Hutton surrounding the death of British weapons expert David Kelly, he can put the Iraq issue behind him, the paper continued: The aftermath of the war is weakening his leadership ability and personally wearing him down.

The Badische Zeitung from Freiburg commented that if the British secret service did really spy on Kofi Annan, it would reveal how little significance Blair attaches to the United Nations. Particularly in the precarious situation in which the U.S. and its allies find themselves in Iraq, Britain can't afford the disdain of the United Nations, said the paper.The British government may need Annan's diplomatic help in Iraqi reconstruction - possibly even sooner than it expects, the daily wrote.

The Financial Times Deutschland pointed out that spying has always been one of the dirty tactics of international politics, sometimes even between friendly nations. UN workers have even said that they assume that they're being bugged. Similar spying accusations against the U.S. have been going on for a long time, wrote the paper. That's why the stories of the British government leak make Clare Short sound plausible, even though she doesn't have hard proof.

On the meeting of U.S. President George W. Bush and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder in Washington, the Stuttgarter Zeitung suggested they both must be aware that the German-U.S. confrontation caused by the Iraq War cannot, and should not, endure. Schröder realized before Bush that the face-off would hurt Germany economically in the long term. And in the last few weeks, Bush has sent out peace signs -- above all for domestic policy reasons. Bush has to challenge the accusations of his opponents that through the Iraq War he cut the U.S. off from important allies - and hurt his own country in the process, the paper wrote.

It's the upcoming U.S. Presidential elections, wrote the Frankfurter Rundschau, more than the current Schröder-Bush meeting, that will determine future relations between Berlin and Washington. The important thing that we can deduce from the Iraq dispute is that now, 15 years after the Cold War, the U.S. and Germany need to come to terms with a new state of normality where they are less dependent on each other, according to the daily. The German government will no longer follow the United States uncritically.

And the Süddeutsche Zeitung from Munich called on German politicians to find a way between protest and supplication, between defiance and a kind of compulsory tribute to the United States. German leaders should be self-confident, but not fickle. The U.S. isn't going to accept the current division of labor any longer -- America fights the war while Europe secures the peace. It would affect the military budget of NATO member states, said the paper. The E.U. must have common forces that they can use in international operations, and help share military costs with the U.S, said the daily. The military superiority of the U.S. brings with it the danger that the trans-Atlantic rift will grow bigger. Maybe Schröder will also talk to Bush about that, speculated the paper -- they don't have to like, only tolerate each other.