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German Press Review: How Friendly is Bush’s New Stance?

Newspapers in Germany on Wednesday dissected the intentions of U.S. President George W. Bush’s new, reconciliatory tone toward Germany and the UN.

With the toll mounting in Iraq in both soldiers and material, United States President George W. Bush has "become more conciliatory toward the United Nations and in particular Germany," wrote the editors of Munich’s Münchner Merkur. This, the paper opined, is "the result of a bitter learning process. America appears to have understood the lesson in Iraq that even superior military dominance does not justify going it alone politically. Winning the war does not mean winning the peace and the U.S. is now accepting the consequences." But the paper cautioned both the Germans and the French that they would be well advised to grasp the hand Washington has extended. "It would seem Berlin and Paris have realized that, in the end, the strategic common ground with America is more important," the paper concluded.

Cologne’s Stadt-Anzeiger noted that "Bush’s advances have nothing to do with suddenly discovered sympathies for German opposition to the Iraq war. It is Bush’s weakness alone that makes Chancellor Gerhard Schröder strong." The German government, the paper emphasizes, "must clearly formulate its vital interests -- and these are a united Europe, a functioning United nations and taming of the superpower America."

The Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, based in Essen, commented that the U.S. "built its own trap in Iraq. And it cannot extricate itself under its own power." The editors continued: "Bush needs the United Nations. This is both an opportunity and a challenge for the U.N." The world body must become stronger, more efficient and more democratic, the paper’s editors concluded.

Meanwhile Hanover’s Neue Presse noted that President Bush "has recognized that without broad international support no progress will be made in Iraq or Afghanistan." Furthermore, at home, American voters are pointing thumbs down after being confronted with astronomically high costs for these wars and their consequences. Domestic policies may also be the reason that Chancellor Schröder is diving into the foreign policy arena, the paper wrote. "Already, people are talking about a new international role for Germany as a mediator between Washington and Paris," it concluded.

The Constance-based Südkurier agreed. "Bush’s meeting with Schröder on Wednesday could give Germany more room to maneuver without getting involved militarily in Iraq," the editors wrote. "But U.S.-German relations have not healed, and that won’t change as long as the two leaders are named Bush and Schröder."

The Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper in Frankfurt looked ahead of the General Assembly opening session to a potential Iraq resolution. The paper’s editors claimed they are convinced there will be no French veto this time. "The danger is that Bush wants only silent partners," they wrote. "But the situation in Iraq demands a credible alliance with international credentials, the paper says. Sovereign Iraqi institutions without a timetable and mediation by a neutral organization like the UN are unrealistic."