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Schröder has both Praise and Criticism for Saudis

On his final day of talks in Saudi Arabia, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder had a mixed message for his hosts. He praising their efforts towards Mideast peace, but said they must do more to fight terrorism.


Gerhard Schröder brings his balanced agenda to Saudi Arabia

On the final day of his visit to Saudi Arabia, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder challenged his hosts to increase their efforts in fighting terrorism and criticized the Saudis for financially supporting groups which engaged in what he called the spread of “religious propaganda” in Germany.

At a press conference which was attended by Saudi leaders, Schröder accused charities from within the kingdom of working with Muslim extremists in his own country. “There are Saudi parties that provide financial support to groups that engage in religious propaganda in Berlin,” the chancellor said. Schröder did not elaborate on his statement but added that German and Saudi interior ministers would be meeting in the near future to “find a way of cooperating in the fight against terrorism.”

German spies monitor Saudis at home

It was revealed in August that German secret services had been monitoring Saudi embassies, diplomatic missions and other facilities in Germany amid suspicions that Saudi Arabia was supporting extremist networks such as al Qaeda.

The German news magazine Der Spiegel revealed that security forces had been conducting the surveillance under orders from Schröder’s government, which now ranks the rich Arab kingdom and Syria among the countries considered to present an threat from radical Muslims. The magazine cited a source within the German secret service as saying the Saudi religious affairs minister in particular had offered “advice and active support'' to militants.

Praise for mediation

The Chancellor offset his confrontational words on extremism and terrorism with praise for Saudi attempts to keep the Middle East peace process on track. Schröder was complimentary of Riyadh’s initiative, which is designed to engage Israel with the Arab world in exchange for a full withdrawal from territory occupied since 1967.

“We share your concern about the situation in the Middle East,” the German Chancellor told Saudi leaders.

“However, the conflict can’t be settled militarily but only through political means,” he added, saying that the U.S. road map offered an appropriate framework to work out the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

“We have great hope in the road map... and both sides to the conflict must immediately respect its clauses in full,” Schröder said, pledging Germany’s commitment to working with “key countries” of the Middle East to find a political solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Germany committed to rebuilding Iraq

One of the most important steps towards stabilization in the region, Schröder said, was the resolution of the current situation in Iraq. The chancellor again said his country would participate in the reconstruction process, saying: “Germany will be involved in the training of Iraqi security and police personnel,” but the details were to be worked out.

When questioned on the draft resolution put forward by the United States to the U.N. Security Council this week, the chancellor reiterated his dissatisfaction with the proposal. “We believe the wording of this resolution needs to be improved, which is possible. And we have told this to our partners and our friends in the United States and in France,” Schröder said.

Schröder favors U.N. approach

The U.S. wants to share the military and financial burden of the reconstruction of Iraq with other countries but has set no date for the end of the American occupation. Germany remains committed to a swift return to Iraqi sovereignty and a larger role for the United Nations, which has put it at odds with the United States.

“We need a realistic calendar for a progressive transfer of political responsibilities to competent Iraqi parties,” Schröder said. “We strongly back a strengthening of the role of the United Nations in such an interim process. Only the UN can guarantee the necessary legitimacy for rapid reconstruction in Iraq under an independent government that represents all Iraqis.”

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