German Officials Warn Against Iraq Attack

Germany backs U.S. efforts to combat terrorism, but its "checkbook" may not be open to support an American attack against Iraq, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said Saturday.

"Germany is no longer a country where checkbook diplomacy replaces politics," Schroeder said. "At least not under me."

Schroeder said Germany would not rush into action against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and cautioned the United States to be wary of launching an offensive. President Bush has said his goal is Saddam's removal and has approved the possible use of CIA and Special Forces teams against Saddam, but the administration says it is undecided about a military campaign.

"I can only warn against discussing a war in Iraq without thinking about the consequences and without having a political concept for the whole Middle East," Schroeder said.

Schroeder spoke at an election rally in his hometown of Hanover, two days before his campaign for Sept. 22 elections was set to open. He has been pressured to start early because of his party's sagging popularity in the polls.

Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer came out even stronger against a possible U.S. attack.

"Where is the threat that we are being told of?" Fischer asked ZDF television in an interview to be aired Sunday.

Fischer said the international fight against terrorism and a solution to the Middle East crisis should come before any military action against Saddam.

"I think the priorities are in the wrong order," the foreign minister said.

Earlier in the week, Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac insisted that any attack on Iraq would need United Nations approval and urged Baghdad to agree to the return of U.N. weapons inspectors.

On Friday, Iraq offered to talk with the chief weapons inspector of the United Nations.