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Rice Comes to Berlin

Hardy Graupner (win)
May 16, 2004

U.S. national security adviser Condoleeza Rice is to due to visit Berlin on Sunday and Monday, following a round of talks with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

Iraq and the Middle East will dominate Rice's talks in Germany.Image: AP

At the center of talks in Germany will be plans to transfer power to the Iraqi people in June as well as ways of revitalizing the Middle East peace process. While in Berlin, Rice is expected to meet with Palestinian prime minister Ahmed Qureia.

With her visits to Moscow and Berlin, Rice is travelling to two countries which were among the staunchest opponents of the war in Iraq. But there’s agreement that despite earlier discrepancies, all efforts must now be geared towards making Iraq’s post-war reconstruction a success despite the political blunders committed by U.S. forces on the ground.

Iraqi handover central to discussions

On Monday, Rice is expected to debate with German leaders the modalities of the planned handover of power to the Iraqi people. Washington is hoping to craft a new UN resolution which would set the stage from the transition to self-rule in June. Given the current security problems in Iraq, the U.S. administration might be forced to grant the United Nations a larger role in the country, said the director of the Berlin-based Institute for Transatlantic Security, Otfried Nassauer.

"Condoleezza Rice is probably trying to convince the German government to take a more positive stand on the U.S. approach, which would leave quite a lot of control with the U.S. forces currently deployed in Iraq," he said. "However, the German government is much more likely to insist on the UN and the future Iraqi government to get decision making rights, especially in the areas of economic, politics and in some ways also security."

In her talks with German leaders, Rice will also focus on ways of bringing the Middle East peace plan back on track. U.S. President George W. Bush angered the Arab world and Europeans last month by embracing Sharon's plan for a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the West Bank, which many feared would sideline a Middle East “roadmap” peace plan.

Ahmed Kureia
Ahmed QureiaImage: AP

Bush further irked Arab leaders by affirming Israel’s right to retain parts of the West Bank while denying Palestinian refugees the right of return to lands inside Israel. But later on, Bush sent a letter of reassurance to the Palestinian Prime Minister Qureia (photo). It reiterated Washington's commitment to a two-state solution and the need to implement the international Middle East roadmap peace blueprint launched jointly by the United States, Russia, The United Nations and the European Union.

A sign of progress?

On Monday, Rice is scheduled to hold talks with Qureia in Berlin -- a meeting reported to have been brokered by German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer during his visit to

Washington earlier this week. Nassauer viewed the forthcoming meeting as at least a symbolic gesture pointing to the Bush administration’s willingness to take a more balanced stance on the Middle East conflict.

"Compared to the position of earlier U.S. governments, the U.S. government currently running the administration is much more one-sided," he said. "This government has to take a more balanced stand for which this meeting could be an initial sign, however, as far as we can predict, it will again be a problem whether the U.S. government will show the flexibility to correct positions it has taken earlier."

Ahead of Rice’s visit, Fischer said the Iraq issue and the Middle East conflict were inseparably linked. It was therefore logical that the two topics should be addressed

together during Monday’s talks.