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Germany

Report Fans Controversy Over BND Activity in Iraq

A government report on the activities of two German spies in Baghdad during the Iraq war has not served to quell controversy about to what extent they aided the US. Instead, it has raised more questions than it answered.

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Destruction in Baghdad thanks to information from German spies?

Being on the Parliamentary Control Commission in the German Bundestag has its advantages. The political bickering over the activities of two German spies in Baghdad just days before and during the United States-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 is growing louder but in parliament, not all MPs are equal.

Those sitting on the Parliamentary Control Commission were privy to the complete content of a 300-page report that included details of the activities of two Federal Intelligence Service (BND) agents, but only 90 pages were released to the rest of parliament and hence to the eyes of the media, causing an outcry from lawmakers from the ruling coalition.

Social Democratic parliamentarian Olaf Scholz attacked the man behind the condensed version of the report, the commissioner for data privacy Peter Schaar, accusing him of having too much of a "civil servant mentality."

Erstürmung einer Brücke in Bagdad

US troops storm a bridge in Baghdad

Schaar defended his work however, telling the Berlin daily Tagesspiegel that the information struck from the original document was of a personal nature such as "the health of the people, real or presumed political views or information from current state prosecutor investigations."

Greens reconsider inquiry

Meanwhile, politicians from Germany's opposition parties have rejected the government's view that the report exonerates the BND and the administration of former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.

The Green Party, which was the junior coalition partner with the Social Democrats under former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder when the Iraq war broke out, has decided that a parliamentary inquiry would now best serve the interests of the people.

Renate Künast, the party parliamentary floor leader, said on German public television there are still many matters that must be cleared up regarding what and how much information was passed on to the US by the two BND agents.

Renate Künast für Frauengalerie

Renate Künast has given voice to the Greens' change of heart

"Only then will we have all the facts and only then can we pass judgment," Künast said.

Yet she did not want to commit to having prominent Green Party member and former foreign minister Joschka Fischer, appear in front of the inquiry.

Nevertheless, the party's leadership approved a call for an investigation on Friday that must now be confirmed by the whole of the Green Party. Künast expected no surprises from the party's rank-and-file.

FDP to decide in March

The change of heart should be greeted warmly by the free-market liberal Free Democrats (FDP). One month ago, the FDP along with the Left Party had wanted to start an inquiry but the Greens wavered and voted against the motion in parliament.

In the current Bundestag, a parliamentary inquiry can only be formed if all three opposition parties agree. With the Greens' change of heart, this seems more likely. The Left Party has already repeated their calls from earlier for an investigation. The FDP has called a party caucus for March 7 to debate the motion.

Should the liberals join the ranks of their two opposition partners, politicians from the former and current government will have to answer to their fellow parliamentarians in the investigating committee.

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