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Thursday, 13 February, 2003, 11:15 GMT
Schroeder defends stance on Iraq
Gerhard Schroeder
Schroeder restated Germany's anti-war position
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has said he is committed to finding a peaceful solution to the Iraqi conflict, along with France and Russia.

The German leader was giving parliament details of his government's efforts to prevent a possible US-led war against Iraq.

Germany is making every effort to find a peaceful solution to the Iraq crisis
UN Resolution 1441 has no automatic clause for declaring a war
When a partner is in need of help we will be there
Give peace a chance

Mr Schroeder said UN Resolution 1441 calling on Baghdad to disarm "contains nothing automatic as far as military force is concerned".

He was speaking as talks were due to resume at Nato headquarters in Brussels aimed at healing a damaging alliance rift over contingency plans for war, which envisage bolstering Turkey's defences.

Later in the session, Defence Minister Peter Struck said that Nato would act on Turkey's request for help by Saturday.

"We will have a decision in the North Atlantic Council at the latest on Saturday, following the discussions in the UN Security Council on Friday, which will absolutely satisfy Turkey's interests," he said.

'Solidarity not in question'

Mr Schroeder said a majority on the UN Security Council shared Germany's view that all efforts for peace were necessary. He has ruled out voting in favour of war on Iraq in the Security Council.

"We can disarm Iraq without war. I see grasping this chance as my responsibility," he said.

He reiterated his election pledge that Germany would not take part in a military strike on Iraq, saying it was crucial to examine whether any such action would strengthen or weaken the international alliance against terrorism.

But he stressed that "our solidarity with Turkey and all other members of Nato is not in question".

"When a partner is need of help we will be there."

Open in new window : Who backs war?
Where key nations stand on Iraq

He said there was no question that Iraq was ruled by a dictator whom everyone would like to get rid of.

However, it was clear that Baghdad had no nuclear weapons and no long-range missiles, he said.

Progress had been made with UN weapons inspections checking whether Baghdad had weapons of mass destruction, he said.

But Iraq might be in a position to manufacture other weapons of mass destruction, he added.

Hence, the UN weapons inspectors must be allowed to continue their work there and be given more time and means to conduct their work, he added.

Mr Schroeder said resolving the Middle East crisis was also crucial, including the establishment of a viable Palestinian state.

He added he was concerned that military intervention in Iraq would only increase Islamic militancy in the region.

Nato split

In his speech, Mr Schroeder said there was no need for an official decision to resolve Nato's row over Turkey before UN weapons inspectors report to the Security Council on Friday.

The White House has increased its pressure on Germany, France and Belgium, who are blocking the plans, with spokesman Ari Fleischer accusing them of "isolating themselves from Europe".

In the US, some senior American politicians have been calling for retaliation against Germany and France for their failure to support US policy in Iraq.

Reports speak of a momentum building up for early action to reduce the number of American service personnel in Germany - currently totalling some 70,000.

There are also calls for economic action against France, including a demand that American companies boycott the Paris Air Show, and calls for new regulations on the import of French mineral water and wine.

Shifting stance

In his first term of office, Mr Schroeder risked the survival of his government to support the United States military action against al-Qaeda and the Taleban in Afghanistan.

After the terrorist attacks on America in September 2001, he also pledged "unlimited solidarity" with the US in the campaign to combat terrorism.

But he changed tack during last year's German general election campaign.

His populist rhetoric, warning the Americans against "playing around with war" and "risky adventures" in Iraq, almost certainly won him re-election, says the BBC's European affairs correspondent, William Horsley.

In Tuesday's speech, Mr Schroeder said differences over Iraq had not altered the "substance" of Germany's friendship with the US - responding to critics in Germany that his stance over Iraq was putting the two countries' relationship under threat.

Mr Schroeder's stance opposing a US-led war over Iraq - even if the United Nations approves it - still seems to command the support of most Germans, our correspondent says.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder
"We all do what we have to do for the peaceful disarmament of Iraq"
Thomas Kielinger, of German newspaper Die Welt
"He is tending to say that America is this country that we must rein in"

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13 Feb 03 | Media reports
03 Feb 03 | Europe
08 Jan 03 | Europe
29 Jan 03 | Europe
12 Feb 03 | Americas
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