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German Press Review: Shirt-Sleeved Camaraderie at G-8

German editorial pages on Friday focused on summarizing the G-8 summit in Sea Island, Georgia. Most saw the meeting as a curtain-raiser for George Bush's foreign policy strategy ahead of the presidential elections.

According to Germany's mass circulation tabloid Bild Zeitung, "the shirt-sleeved camaraderie" between U.S. President George W. Bush and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder is "undoubtedly preferable to yesterday's going out of each other's way." But the paper cautioned against falling prey to the illusion. "Just as Schröder sought votes in the last general election, particularly in eastern Germany, with his veiled anti-American position on the Iraq war, so too is Bush trying to sway American voters who demand more cooperation with his European partners ahead of presidential elections. "

The Berliner Zeitung agreed, noting that the upcoming presidential elections have forced a degree of flexibility that was not evident at the White House a year ago. The increasing criticism by the American people of the financial and human costs of the war in Iraq and the lack of support by it's allies has forced the hand of President Bush. Yet the paper also said that on the European side there's a sense of recognition that one simply can't write off the U.S. president. Not only the recent agreement on the UN resolution but the compromise on the Middle East is proof of this mutual understanding, the paper wrote.

"The United States has recognized that it cannot control the chaos in Iraq alone," observed the Handelsblatt from Düsseldorf. It commented that President Bush is trying to counter the accusation from Democrat contender John Kerry that he has shattered the U.S. foreign alliances for nothing. "Yet, one should not be blinded by the harmonious sounds coming from this G8 summit," the business daily commented. "The U.S. still needs to pass the litmus test of its new flexibility. Bush's recognition of the urgent need to resolve the Middle East crisis will only become credible once he seriously adopts the role of negotiator. If he again takes Israel's side without question then new friction with the Europeans is foreseeable," it concluded.

The Thuringer Allgemeine from Erfut in the country's East noted that the main topics at the G-8 gathering were more typical of a UN Security Council sitting than of an economic summit -- the real purpose for which the group was established. The paper described the United States as realizing that for an equal partnership between western allies to exist there needs to be a resolution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, it said, Bush found no one was willing to accommodate his plea for help in terms of deploying NATO troops in Iraq or canceling that country's debt.

The Rheinpfalz paper from Ludwigshafen said, "no one is seriously thinking of replacing coalition troops in Iraq with NATO soldiers." According to the paper, it's not in the interest of the Bush administration for soldiers to be pulled out of Iraq by an alliance member as the Spanish have done. "There is a way the alliance can get more involved in Iraq," the paper suggested, "and that's by training Iraqi security forces. But that's a discussion for the upcoming NATO meeting in Istanbul and not for the G-8 summit."

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