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Germany

Talking with the Enemy

Iran's inclusion in US President George W. Bush's "axis of evil" has been a boon for German-Iranian relations. Iran's foreign minister enjoyed Berlin's sympathy Thursday and asked his hosts to keep Washington in check.

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Smile for the camera

After years of tension and distrust, Iran and Germany have found common ground in America’s recent diplomatic gaffes.

Iraq’s next-door neighbor has enjoyed a flood of diplomatic support from Europe since being lumped together by US President George W. Bush with North Korea and Iraq as part of an "axis of evil."

The EU has come out sharply against Bush's phrase, as has Hamid Karzai, chief of the interim Afghanistan government.

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer weighed in as well two weeks ago, warning the United States that its allies were not "satellites" in America’s war on terror.

On Thursday, Fischer won praise from Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, on the second day of a two-day visit to Berlin.

Lauding Germany’s growing involvement in Afghanistan and the Middle East, Kharrazi said the country could "create a balance" against the United States in the world.

"The friends of the United States have to advise them that instead of unilateralism they should stick to multilateralism," the Iranian minister said.

Warming relations through terror attacks

The visit was part of a general warming of relations between the two countries since the September 11 terrorist attacks last year.

Tensions peaked in the late 1990s, when a German court ruled high-ranking Iranian officials were behind the assassination of four Kurdish Iranians in Berlin in 1992.

Chancellor Gerhard Schröder also cancelled a visit to Teheran last year after an Iranian court sentenced people to jail after they had taken part in a conference in Berlin.

But Fischer traveled to Teheran in October 2001, and pledged with Kharrazi to rebuild Afghanistan after the US attacks had ended.

He was followed by German Finance Minister Hans Eichel, who spent a day in Teheran in January meeting with his counterpart, Tahmaseb Mazaheri.

The two agreed that German and Iranian corporations should work jointly in rebuilding Afghanistan.

During Karzai's recent trip to Teheran, Iran pledged more than 500 million euro in aid, the most any single country has offered.

Germany,which was lauded on Thursday by UN General Secretary Kofi Annan for the development aid it gives third world countries, plans millions of euro in aid to Afghanistan and is part of the UN peacekeeping operation in Kabul.

More Iranian visitors are expected to visit Berlin in the coming months,including the head of the country's parliament.

The US has been wary of Berlin's relationship with Teheran, but has been hesitant to say so out loud.

Even the US Ambassador to Berlin, Dan Coats, chose restraint over criticism during Kharrazi's Germany visit.

Deploying troops in Iran, he said Thursday, is "the last option, after everything else has failed."

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