In a telephone conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder on Thursday offered to provide humanitarian help in dealing with the hostage-taking at a school in North Ossetia, a government spokesman said. The German leader, who expressed shock over the seizure of some 300 hostages, including 200 children, on Wednesday morning, offered to send a German air force plan specially equipped to serve as an emergency medical center in crisis regions before the injured can be flown to safety. Exact details of the two leaders' conversation were not made public. Back home, after a visit with Putin on the Black Sea, Schröder faced strong criticism from within his party for not coming out stronger against indiscretions in the recent Chechen election. Earlier in the day, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer issued a statement saying: "No argument can justify taking children hostage and threatening to kill them. Our thoughts are with the hostages and their families and we hope that this hostage crisis will end quickly and without bloodshed."