German Talks Fail to Lift Cloud of Iraq

Germany and the United States called each other friends and allies on Wednesday but a meeting between Secretary of State Colin Powell and German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer did not put an end to the rift which arose during German elections in September.

The meeting was the first at this level since German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder won popular support and electoral victory through opposition to U.S. threats to attack Iraq if it does not comply with U.N. resolutions.

Fischer came to patch up the relationship, which Bush administration officials said was "poisoned" when a German minister drew a comparison between the methods of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and those of U.S. President George W. Bush.

Powell took a softer line toward Germany during the row and repeatedly predicted that decades of friendship after the Second World War would restore the relationship.

On Wednesday he said the United States and Germany were "close friends and close allies" despite their disagreements.

"I would say that we are two friends, two allies that occasionally find ourselves with areas of disagreements and some rough spots," he told reporters.

"As befitting the kind of relationship we have, we're confident that in due course we will get over these disagreements and we'll find ways to resolve any differences that may exist," he added.

Asked if he would recommend that Bush invite Schroeder to Washington, he said the two leaders would be in the Czech capital Prague for a NATO summit in late November.

"All of the heads of state and government will be there and I'm sure they'll have a chance to see each other at one point or another in the context of that summit meeting," he said.

Fischer, who has no other meetings with Bush administration officials, was full of praise for the role the United States played in defeating the Nazis, defending West Germany during the Cold War and helping Germany reunite after the collapse of Soviet influence.


"We are close allies, and I think that if there are differences and turbulences, we will discuss these problems inside the family," he added.

The German criticism of U.S. policy during the election campaign brought to light all of the mutual suspicions between the United States and many of its European allies, who oppose the U.S. trend toward unilateralism.

U.S. officials had the impression that Germany would move closer to its position on Iraq after the elections but Fischer said again on Wednesday that Germany did not believe Iraq was as much of a threat as "international terrorism." Germany would not take part in any attack on Baghdad, he added.

U.S. commentators, especially conservatives, have been scathing about German policy.

The conservative Heritage Foundation, in an analysis released to coincide with Fischer's visit, said Berlin risked isolation by opposing military action against Baghdad.

"If Berlin refuses to stand by its allies in confronting the threat posed by the Iraqi regime, it will be seen as increasingly irrelevant in the global fight against international terrorism," it said.

German-born former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, in an article in the Washington Post on Wednesday, said relations between Washington and Berlin were in crisis because the German government had "chosen the road of confrontation."

"A kind of anti-Americanism may have become a permanent temptation of German politics," he added.

Powell and Fischer said they also discussed the NATO summit, European defense plans, European Union expansion, the Middle East, Afghanistan and the "war against terrorism."