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Germany

Opposition Wins Support for BND Affair Inquiry

Germany's three opposition factions have succeeded in garnering enough support from the Bundestag to request an inquiry into Berlin's role in the US-led strike on Iraq.

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An inquiry will force the government to come clean

According to Germany's Basic Law, a Bundestag inquiry requires the support of 25 percent of the Bundestag, which amounts to 154 members. By late Wednesday, 157 members of the German parliament had signed the application, meaning the hurdle had already been crossed even before every member of the opposition had reached a decision.

Among the signatories were all 53 members of the Left party, 58 of 61 FDP members and 46 Green politicians. Former foreign minister Joschka Fischer from the Greens, however, vehemently rejected the need for the inquiry -- but may find himself required to give evidence once the committee sets to work.

On Tuesday, the Greens proposed Hans-Christian Ströbele as their party's representative in any potential committee, a parliamentarian who has consistently voiced firm opposition to the Iraq war.

Getting down to details

Although both the CDU and the SDP reject the probe, they respect the right of the opposition, which makes up 166 members of parliament, to call for an inquiry.

The next step will be to flesh out the details of the application -- believed to include up to 30 questions -- and to determine the scale of the inquiry. It is expected to comprise up to eleven members, and will be headed by CDU politician Siegfried Kauder, who participated in last year's visa inquiry.

Khaled el Masri in Straßburg

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The investigation will focus in-depth on the role of the German intelligence services (BND) during the Iraq war, the CIA's kidnapping of the German-Lebanese Khaled al-Masri as well as the CIA's secret flights and detention centers. The opposition agreed earlier this month on the terms of reference for the inquiry.

Central significance

Jörg van Essen from the FDP told Tagesschau Wednesday that a definitive study of the BND's activities in Baghdad in 2003 was of central significance, given that the war against Iraq took place without a UN mandate, which meant the German government and the BND were in no legal position to participate in it.

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Joschka Fischer faced a parliamentary panel investigating the visa scandal

He also pointed out that inquires are an important political tool of the opposition. "The visa inquiry dramatically changed the image of the foreign minister at the time, Joschka Fischer," he said. "An inquiry into this issue is significant, because the German government failed to take the opportunity to explain itself on its own initiative."

The Bundestag will make a final vote on the inquiry on March 31.

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