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Germany

Steinmeier to Visit Iraq in Signal of Support for Obama

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier plans to visit Baghdad next year, the foreign ministry said. His visit will mark the first of a German minister to Iraq since 2003 and an upturn in trans-Atlantic ties.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Steinmeier said he expected a new start to Europe's relations with the United States

The visit is intended to send a signal to Washington that President-elect Barack Obama's Middle East policies may get more support in Berlin than those of current US President George W. Bush, German media reported Saturday, Nov. 8.

The trip is still in the early planning stages and no concrete date has been set, according to a foreign ministry spokesman.

Germany and the United States have not seen eye-to-eye on the US war in Iraq ever since it began in 2003. Steinmeier served as chief of staff to former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who won re-election largely because of his opposition to the war.

Restarting trans-Atlantic relations

The flags of the United States and European Union

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Steinmeier said that Germany was looking forward to improving trans-Atlantic relations with Obama. The minister told the Hamburger Abendblatt that he expected a "new start to relations between Europe and America."

"We are very close to Obama," Steinmeier said, adding that the US president-elect "would rather solve conflicts together than alone."

According to reports to be published Monday in the daily Handelsbaltt and newsmagazine Der Speigel, Steinmeier has requested his staff put together recommendations of how Germany can aid the reconstruction of Iraq.

Obama has proposed a troop withdrawal over a period of 16 months, but he had also reassured Iraqi leaders that he would not take any drastic or dramatic decisions.

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