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Germany

Germany Passes on Afghan Leadership Role

Germany’s Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, has backed away from taking on a leadership role for the peace-keeping mission in Afghanistan despite earlier suggestions to the contrary.

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"The American Friends know how engaged we are"

"The American friends know how engaged we are in seeking peace," Schröder told ARD German television ahead of talks in Washington with U.S. President George W. Bush.

"We are engaged with more than 8,000 soldiers in the Balkans and nearly 4,000 as part of Operation Enduring Freedom in the fight against terrorism with military means, and we have about 1,000 soldiers in Afghanistan," he said.

"I don't think that one expects more from Germany. We are doing what we can. The German armed forces are in the middle of a reform process. Thus I do not believe that this will be a topic for discussion. We are doing more than comparable partners."

Schröder's spokesman said on Monday the chancellor might discuss taking on a lead role in Afghanistan when he meets Bush if Germany was relieved of its leadership of a peacekeeping mission in Macedonia.

Britain wants to end its command of the 17-nation mission in Afghanistan by the end of April.

Schroeder declined to comment in detail on Bush's Tuesday State of the Union speech in which the U.S. leader identified "an axis of evil" in Iraq, Iran and North Korea which he said threatened U.S. allies.

"We will answer such questions when they are posed," Schröder said. "At present, we are especially focused on the fight against terror in Afghanistan. We are engaged in giving the country a democratic future."

He called talk about future targets in the war on terrorism theoretical and added: "There are things that one cannot discuss publicly."

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