Germany's chancellor issues his strongest position against an Iraq war yet, saying his country would vote against any resolution calling for military action against Saddam Hussein at the United Nations.
Demonstrators in Berlin in May carry signs reading: "War monger not welcome"
Distancing himself further from his American allies, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder ended all doubts late Tuesday about his views on a possible U.N. resolution authorizing a war against Iraq and asserted that his country would definitely vote against any such measure in the U.N. Security Council.
The chancellor made the declaration at a state election rally held on the eve of a ceremony marking the 40th anniversary of a treaty that helped end decades of bloody German-French hostilities. In the speech, Schröder said he had told the government of French President Jacques Chirac: "Do not expect Germany to vote in favor of a U.N. resolution that legitimizes a war against Iraq. Just do not expect it."
Until Tuesday, Schröder had not spoken out so clearly against a possible U.N. resolution. Instead, he let his listeners draw their own conslusions. Over the weekend, for instance, he repeated a stance he had often taken in the past. ``We will not join a military action against Iraq and that is exactly how we will act during any votes taken by international organizations," he said.
Chirac Raises Own Questions About War
At Wednesday´s ceremonies, Chirac also indicated that he also opposed a war, saying France and Germany shared the same position on the issue. The statement raised the possibility that France could use its veto in the Security Council to block a resolution on the issue, a power that Germany as one of the rotating members does not have.
Chirac´s statement came after France's ambassador at the United Nations, Dominique de Villepin, expressed his country´s growing doubts about a potential U.S.-led war against Iraq on Tuesday. He reiterated France's demand that a second resolution be introduced in the Security Council before any military action could take place and did not rule out the possibility that France could use its veto power in such a vote. "We see no justification right now for any military action," he said.
Schröder´s position is likely to further upset members of the Bush administration, who were angered by the German chancellor last summer as he used his anti-war stance as a cornerstone of his re-election campaign. But his position seems to reflect views held by the nation´s citizens. According to one survey, 69 percent of Germans say the country should vote against any Security Council resolution authorizing a war against Iraq.
In contrast, the leader of Germany´s biggest opposition party criticized Schröder´s new position. Angela Merkel, the leader of the Christian Democratic Union, said Schröder was ignoring the work of the U.N. weapon inspectors in Iraq. ``We want to wait for (their) report,´´ Merkel said. ``Otherwise, we could have avoided going to the trouble of sending them at all.´´
Merkel also said Schröder was running the risk of isolating Germany from its allies. ``We say that Germany can only make a decision together with its partners. A CDU-led government would never think of going it alone.´´
Limited support for U.S. troops?
In an effort to help the United Nations, the German government is reviewing a request to send surveillance drones and about 20 soldiers to Iraq to assist international inspectors hunting for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. A government spokesman said on Tuesday that the government would likely approve the request soon. The drone system, called Luna, would be used to take surveillance pictures from the air. The soldiers would use computers to fly the drones .
Despite his stance, Schröder also is planning to assist U.S. forces should President George W. Bush decide to launch an attack on Iraq aimed at disarming the country and overthrowing Saddam Hussein. As part of this support, Germany will allow American forces to use the country´s airspace. Furthermore, 7,000 German troops will be assigned to guard 95 U.S. bases and facilities in the country, a centerpiece of the American military presence in Europe, according to the newspaper Frankurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
A third form of support, however, has generated the possibility of a constitutional dispute between the governing coalition and opposition parties. The issue involves the possible deployment of NATO surveillance aircraft manned in part by German servicemembers to monitor the airspace over alliance member Turkey during a possible war with Iraq.
Leading members of Schröder´s party, the Social Democrats, maintain that the German parliament in Berlin would not have to approve such a deployment. One of those Social Democrats, the legal expert Dieter Wiefelspütz, has said that under the constitution the parliament is only required to vote on war missions of the German military. That would not be the case in surveillance missions over Turkey, he has said. To back up his case, Wiefelspütz pointed out that the parliament did not vote on the deployment of five AWACS aircraft to monitor U.S. airspace immediately after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Merkel and other opposition members disagree and have said they are prepared to ask the country´s highest court to to consider the issue.
NATO has 17 AWACS planes stationed in Geilenkirchen, a city in northwestern Germany. Germany provides a quarter of the planes´ crewmembers. Among other things, the planes could be used to coordinate air raids over Iraq. AWACS stands for airborne warning and control system (AWACS) The plane is a modified Boeing 707/320 commercial airframe with a rotating radar dome that is 30 feet in diameter.