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Europe

Germany Mulls Sending Hospital Plane to Iraq

After months of refusing to send troops to help stabilize Iraq, Germany now appears prepared to allow its military take part in a humanitarian mission in the country -- but only under a U.N. mandate.

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The military's MedEvac plane is a flying hospital.

In what could signal another step towards healing relations with the United States after disagreement over the war in Iraq, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has confirmed he is considering sending humanitarian aid to Baghdad should certain conditions be met.

“We aren’t planning to change our policy towards Iraq, but we do indeed intend to continue to help on the humanitarian level, especially people who are hurt and need our help,” Schröder said on Wednesday at a function for his Social Democratic Party in Berlin.

According to the daily newspaper Die Welt, Schröder told a parliamentary foreign affairs committee that he supports sending a military medical aircraft to Iraq in the context of a widened NATO mission. The Bundeswehr’s MedEvac unit is akin to a flying hospital which can be used to treat and airlift wounded.

As one of the staunchest opponents of the U.S.-led war, Schröder (photo) is unlikely to ever approve sending soldiers to Iraq. However, the MedEvac plane could be an elegant way to get back on Washington’s good side, which wants more countries to take on some of the burden of security and stabilizing Iraq.

Schröder Regierungserklärung

German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder

“If a legitimate Iraqi government supported by a U.N. mandate ask for humanitarian aid, no one will be able to turn that down,” government spokesman Bela Anda said.

Back on the list

It would also likely be enough for the United States to put Germany on a list of nations that are helping in Iraq, therefore clearing the way for German companies to be allowed to bid on lucrative U.S.-funded reconstruction contracts.

Germany, France, Canada and other nations were left out of the first round of U.S.-financed contracts for opposing the war, but Washington on Tuesday hinted that there was still room for companies from these nations to bid for billions of dollars in lucrative work.

Any decision to send the MedEvac plane would require the approval of the German lower house, the Bundestag. But parliamentarians from across the political spectrum showed their support for the idea after Schröder addressed the foreign affairs committee.

“That is the beginning of getting out of the anti-USA coalition,” Christian Schmidt, defense expert for the opposition Christian Democrats, told Reuters news agency. The humanitarian mission would most likely be part of a NATO operation in Iraq. According to German daily Die Welt, Schröder said that “we won’t hinder NATO” if the transatlantic alliance decides to expand its role after the U.S. hands over power to an Iraqi authority as planned this summer. NATO already helps Poland with organizational aspects in the sector of the country it has been delegated by the United States.

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