German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder on Thursday renewed his criticism of the U.S.-led war in Iraq and said the United Nations must have a central role in any post-war reconstruction.
Gerhard Schröder: "There was an alternative to war."
In a major foreign policy speech to parliament, Schröder also said Iraq’s territorial integrity must be guaranteed and its natural resources need to be controlled by the Iraqi people.
“The United Nations will be indispensable for the reconstruction process,” Schröder said. “Because reconstruction is more than just the repair of buildings, oil fields and infrastructure.”
Schröder’s speech comes as U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell meets his European counterparts in Brussels to discuss what will be a massive effort to rebuild Iraq after the war. Several European nations have expressed concern that the United States is preparing to forego a multilateral political solution after defeating the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
The United States has not explicitly said it would install a military commander to lead Iraq after the war, but Washington is sure to want influence in Baghdad after leading the war effort to oust Hussein. But nations such as France and Germany are loath to help pay for rebuilding Iraq on Washington’s terms after opposing the war in the first place.
Anti-war stance remains popular
Schröder’s anti-war stance has been extremely popular in Germany and in Thursday’s speech the chancellor renewed the government’s commitment to its peace policies, saying only the United Nations should be able to sanction the use of military force to solve international conflicts.
“We were and are convinced that there was an alternative to war. Iraq could have disarmed peacefully through international inspections,” he said. “Now as then, this government considers it a mistake that this path was not taken.”
Angel Merkel, leader of the opposition Christian Democrats, said the anti-war stance of Schröder’s center-left coalition was a populist move, which ended up taking pressure off Iraq to work with U.N. weapons inspectors. “It made war more likely, rather than unlikely,” she said.
Despite his rejection of the U.S.-led war, Schröder said he hoped Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship would be quickly toppled and the Iraqi people could take control of their affairs as soon as possible.
Joint E.U. peacekeepers
UN peacekeer helmet
He also said the war presented an opportunity to press ahead with the development of a common E.U. foreign and defense policy. Schröder said a first step could be to set up a joint E.U. peacekeeping troop for U.N. operations instead of each nation sending its own contingent. He also reiterated support for a European foreign minister.
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer on Thursday mooted the idea of proceeding with joint security policy with only a small core of E.U. member states. In an interview with the Handelsblatt newspaper, Fischer said if a solution could not be agreed upon in a E.U.-wide treaty, then countries that were willing could move forward on their own. He said other E.U. nations would then be able to join later on as they wished.
In his speech to parliament, Schröder singled out the importance of having Britain on board any such initiative: “It’s particularly important to me that Great Britain, which has been so important for driving European security and defense policy in the past, is part of this process.”
Some European politicians have singled out British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s unwavering support for U.S. President George Bush as a main cause of the rift within Europe over the war in Iraq.