WASHINGTON – The Bush administration promised Monday to work with whoever emerges as Germany's new leader and to repair past difficulties between the two countries.
At a ceremony on the 15th anniversary of German reunification, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns recalled differences with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder (search) over the U.S. war in Iraq.
"We have put those differences behind us," Burns said.
Burns did not refer to Schroeder by name and he was careful to strike a neutral stance as Germany headed into coalition talks to choose a new leader. "We stand ready to work with the new government to remove the differences of the last few years," Burns said.
Schroeder's refusal to support President Bush (search) in war with Iraq dampened relations with the German leader. But despite the differences Burns said there was "great trust" between Germany and the United States.
In Germany, meanwhile, Conservative challenger Angela Merkel (search) appeared to be gaining ground to succeed Schroeder.
On another touchy issue, Burns said he hoped talks in Luxembourg over admitting Turkey to the European Union succeeded.
"Turkey belongs in Europe," Burns said.
But in Luxembourg, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the talks were "hard and difficult." The start of negotiations with Turkey on Monday were quietly postponed.
The German reunification ceremony was held at the National Archives. On display were the late President John F. Kennedy's hand-written notes in which he declared "Ich bin ein Berliner" (I am a Berliner) at Berlin city hall June 26, 1963 and the late President Richard M. Nixon's notes for a speech he made at the Berlin Wall in February 1969.
Archivist Allen Weinstein, who arranged the ceremony, said "fine-tuning is very much in progress" in the U.S.-German relationship.
Kurt Beck, governor of Rhineland-Palatinate state, paid tribute to the United States. "It has always been the countries of the Free World, above all the United States, who stood with us," Beck said.
And, German Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger said, "Germans know how much they owe to Americans," in helping it develop into a democracy after World War II.