Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has made plain that Germany will refuse to back an Iraq war resolution in the U.N. Security Council, ending weeks of hedging and aligning himself more closely with his main European partner, France.

Schroeder's clearest position yet is likely to further displease President Bush, who this week scolded countries — such as Germany — that are seeking more time for U.N. weapons inspectors to search in Iraq.

"Don't expect Germany to approve a resolution legitimizing war, don't expect it," Schroeder told a rally of his Social Democratic party Tuesday night in Lower Saxony.

That followed similar statements by France, which said this week that it sees no justification for a war for now and left open the possibility of a French veto if the United States sought a new Security Council resolution authorizing military action.

Schroeder has already ruled out a German combat role in any Iraq war. He has maintained an uneasy balance for months between his country's alliance with the United States and strong anti-war sentiment in Germany, which helped him win re-election last year. His platform built on defiance of Washington has left U.S.-German ties strained.

Though it wields no veto, Germany is set to assume a central role in Iraq war diplomacy when it takes over the council chairmanship in February, just after U.N. inspectors are due to submit a progress report on Jan. 27.

German and French leaders, who have agreed to consult closely on Iraq, reinforced their stance in newspaper articles published Wednesday in Germany's Berliner Zeitung and France's Liberation.

"In the crises involving terrorism, Iraq and North Korea, our peoples can count on the governments of Germany and France to join forces to preserve peace, avoid war and ensure people's security," Schroeder wrote.

"Our aim is to put the power of Europe at the service of peace," said French President Jacques Chirac. "That underlines our actions in Afghanistan and in the Iraq crisis."

Schroeder previously said that Germany would decide how it would vote in the Security Council only when a second Iraq resolution takes shape. But Defense Minister Peter Struck said already last week that a vote in favor was "basically not imaginable anymore."

Schroeder did not specify whether Germany would vote against a resolution or abstain, but he said Berlin's position was increasingly being "understood by the European partners and in the world."

While seeking partnership with France, Germany has gone even further than Paris in its anti-war stance. The French have left open the possibility of military action against Saddam Hussein as a last resort, but Schroeder has not.