Merkel Pledges Improved Germany-U.S. Ties

New German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to strengthen relations with the United States in remarks released Sunday, a day before her top diplomat heads for Washington.

In an interview to be published Monday in Focus magazine, Merkel promised that Berlin would have "a more intensive" relationship with Washington. Those ties suffered from former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's vocal opposition to the war in Iraq.

"With the United States of America, we are anchored together in a military alliance, NATO," Merkel said.

During the campaign before September's closely divided parliamentary elections, the conservative Merkel promised to repair relations with Washington, while Schroeder touted Germany's role as a European leader and counterbalance to America.

Merkel, who heads a coalition government in which Schroeder's Social Democratic Party is an equal partner, has said Germany would not send troops to Iraq.

Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier leaves Monday for the United States and is scheduled to meet with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday.

Merkel also promised "an intensification of relations with the smaller member states of the European Union." Schroeder's anti-war stance also weighed on Berlin's relations with small EU countries, like Poland and Hungary, which sent troops to Iraq.