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Germany

Germany: No NATO in Iraq Without UN

If the United States hopes to get NATO soldiers side-by-side with their own in Iraq, they will have to involve the United Nations. That message came loud and clear out of Berlin on Friday.

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German soldiers won't be working alongside U.S. troops until everyone wears U.N. helmets.

A day after the U.S. Congress requested their president to seek NATO help in stabilizing Iraq, German politicians across the political spectrum set conditions.

"We can only discuss such thing if there is a demand by the United Nations," said Chancellor Gerhard Schröder in a television interview Friday evening.

The Social Democratic chancellor got not only support from within his government coalition, but from opposition politicians as well. After splitting on the question of whether the U.S. should use military force against Iraq half a year ago, the government and opposition have agreed that the United Nations needs to play the central role in rebuilding and stabilizing Iraq.

A government spokesman said Friday that a clear U.N. mandate and a transition government in Iraq are among the conditions that Germany would need to even consider the deployment of NATO troops.

"Currently there is no change in our ... position," Schröder said.

Diplomatic opening for Europe

Analysts see the request by the U.S. Senate, made after testimony by U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the commander in Iraq, General Tommy Franks, as a chance for Europe to get what it has asked for since the end of the war.

Not only Germany, but France and even the U.K. have called for a "central role" for the United Nations in Iraq. All three countries are in the NATO and the approval of a deployment would have to get their yes vote, whether or not they contribute troops.

There are currently Spanish, Italian, Polish and Danish soldiers working side-by-side with U.S. and British troops in Iraq. But the Americans have bore the brunt of the casualties. Every day, new reports come out of attacks against U.S. soldiers. A total of 31 have been killed since President George W. Bush announced the end of main fighting in Iraq in May.

If reports are to be believed, the morale among the 146,000 soldiers currently stationed there is plunging. Costs are slowly getting out of control as well. American taxpayers are having to spend $3.9 billion a month to support the thousands of troops and equipment stationed in Iraq.

Germany's troop deployment limited

Germany's armed forces have been overstretched as well. With more than 8,000 troops in the Balkans, Afghanistan and as far down as the horn of Africa, the possibility that Germany can contribute more is doubtful.

"I think our friends know that we have limited resources," said Wolfgang Schäuble, the parliamentary foreign policy spokesman in Germany's Christian Democratic Union.

But should the United Nations get its desired mandate, Germany would face pressure to contribute troops, a government source said in the Saturday edition of the mass-circulation newspaper Bild.

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