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Germany

Schröder Remains Opposed To War On Iraq

Chancellor Gerhard Schröder says he is unlikely to change his views on a war in Iraq -- no matter what information the U.S. has on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. War is not the way to conduct politics, he says.

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Protests against a war in Iraq continued in Germany this week

Germany is unlikely to be swayed from its opposition to any U.S.-led war on Iraq by the new information that President George W. Bush plans to present to the U.N. Security Council next week, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder said.

"I think people are deluding themselves about our position," Schröder said in a television interview on German public television Wednesday night. "It is strongly based and built on principles. I think any sort of theoretical discussion cannot shake this principle-based position."

Schröder made the comments as part of a blitz of media interviews given by leading U.S. and German politicians after President George W. Bush made his State of the Union address on Tuesday, pledging that he would provide the United Nations with information about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

On Wednesday, the chancellor gave separate interviews to both of the country's national public television stations to explain his position. At the same time, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell also requested to be interviewed by one of these stations, and a key adviser to the Pentagon, Richard Perle, spoke out in a newspaper interview about the meaningless of Schröder's opposition.

Chancellor's stakes out position

Schröder's opposition to a possible war on Iraq took shape during the summer while he was campaigning for re-election. Taking a position that contrasted with his support of the 1999 war against Yugoslavia, Schröder pledged that German troops would not join any U.S.-led military campaign against Saddam Hussein. Last week, the chancellor went even further in his opposition, telling a campaign rally in his home state of Lower Saxony that Germany would not support any Security Council resolution authorizing a war on Iraq.

In his television interview with the ARD network, Schröder elaborated on the reasons for his opposition. "The Germans have had their own experiences with war," he said. "And that has left a deep mark on their collective conscience. Therefore, people have to understand that we -- when faced with the question of war as a normal part of political options -- have a position based on principle."

The chancellor also expressed his disappointment with Bush's failure to present evidence earlier in the debate. "I would have liked for intelligence information -- from whatever source -- to have been put on the table at the start of the process," he said.

In the address, Bush said he would send Secretary of State Colin Powell to the United Nations next Wednesday to share intelligence on Iraq. Administration officials said the data showed Saddam was concealing chemical and biological weapons from inspectors, and was importing technology for long-range missile and nuclear weapons programs.

Powell seeks to sway Germans

Powell, in an interview with German public broadcaster ZDF on Wednesday, said he hoped the Germans would change their minds after seeing the new information.

"We hope that in the next few days, when we discuss this together, the German public and its political leaders will look at everything in a different light," Powell said.

But key adviser to the Pentagon Richard Perle suggested in an interview with a Munich newspaper that Schröder and the country he represents no longer mattered. Schröder has assumed "such an extreme position that he has taken Germany and himself out of the debate," Perle told the Süddeutsche Zeitung. "Germany is irrelevant. And it is not particularly easy for a German chancellor to make his country irrelevant."

State of the Union speech sparks criticism

Unlike Schröder and Fischer, who welcomed Bush's state of the union address, other members of the parties that form Germany's governing coalition proved more skeptical and voiced their criticism on Wednesday. Gernot Erler, the vice chairman of the Social Democratic group in the German parliament, said in a television interview, "It is clear that the American president actually does not want to end a program of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but is dead set on waging war and is looking for justification for his action."

Erler and Angelika Beer, the co-leader of the junior coalition partner, the Green Party, also questioned Bush's motives for pledging to turn over more information to the Security Council. "The question naturally arises: Why wasn't Bush's proof presented to the U.N. long ago?" Beer said in an early morning radio interview.

Erler said he doubted that Bush actually wanted to work with the United Nations. "Why is he withholding this supposed secret information and then planning to pull a rabbit out of his hat next week?" he said.