Official: U.S., Germany on Way to Reconciling

Published February 19, 2005

| Associated Press

The United States and Germany are "well on the way" to repairing their breach over Iraq, a top German diplomat said Saturday ahead of this week's talks between President Bush and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder (search).

Asked if things were back to the level before the Iraq crisis, Karsten Voigt (search), the government's coordinator for trans-Atlantic relations, told The Associated Press, "we are well on the way there."

"If one speaks of a new beginning, then one speaks of a positive start with a goal," Voight said. "And the goal is exactly the level that you described."

He pointed to U.S.-German cooperation in forgiving Iraq's debts, training new Iraqi security officers and stabilizing Afghanistan, where Germany has contributed 2,500 soldiers to a NATO (search) security force.

Schroeder also said in comments released Saturday that he welcomed Bush's readiness for improved trans-Atlantic cooperation and was looking forward to discussions with the U.S. president.

"I welcome the American president's openness to dialogue and am looking forward to discussing all important topics with him," Schroeder was quoted as saying in the Tagesspiegel am Sonntag weekly.

Voigt said Germany shared common interests with the United States in ensuring the reconstruction of Iraq and its progress toward democracy. Those topics are likely to be on the agenda when Bush and Schroeder meet Wednesday in Mainz.

"Germany was against the war, but we have an interest in the success of the United States in Iraq. More stability and more democracy in Iraq are in European interests, too," Voigt said. "Therefore, we are already participating in the stabilization with considerable financial means — for example with the debt forgiveness."

He said at least $5.2 billion in debt has been forgiven so far.

He cautioned against expecting the relationship to mirror ties during the Cold War, when West Germany and the United States were united by the need to deter an attack by the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact (search) allies, including communist East Germany. Germany was reunited in 1990 as communism collapsed across eastern Europe.

New strategic circumstances meant the U.S.-German relationship must also change, he said.

"It is a very traditional close partnership which is changing, and will improve if we recognize that this partnership needs to be more and more relevant in view of new challenges, and new opportunities and new threats," Voigt said.

Schroeder recently proposed establishing a commission to review the workings of NATO, the military alliance that was the chief vehicle for U.S.-European security cooperation during the Cold War.

Bush and NATO officials have rejected the idea, saying the alliance is working well as it is.

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