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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 April, 2003, 17:19 GMT 18:19 UK
UK and Germany look to Iraq's future
Tony Blair and Gerhard Schroeder
'Time to move on'
Tony Blair and Gerhard Schroeder displayed a united front on Tuesday when they faced the press together for the first time since damaging splits emerged over Iraq.

The German chancellor began by stressing the friendship between the UK and his country although he acknowledged difficulties in recent months over the war.

"It is time now to concentrate on the problems arising out of the new situation and to resolve those problems," said Mr Schroeder.

Iraq needed to be restored, humanitarian aid delivered and the UN had to be involved in the "restoration of Iraq".

That was echoed by Mr Blair, who stressed the strength of Anglo-German relations, adding that it was important to note how much agreement there was about the way to proceed with Iraq.

'Moving on'

Security and order must be restored for the sake of the Iraqi people, he said, and the UN must have a key role in the future.

Mr Blair acknowledged that many details over the role of the UN still had to be hammered out.

But he said: "I believe that there is agreement, that in principle the United Nations must have a key role.

"I entirely agree with chancellor Schroeder that the important thing is to agree the principle of that role and then discuss the details of how that role may be fulfilled."

Under the Saddam regime they would have ended up in the torture chambers of Basra
Jack Straw
The two leaders are due to travel to an EU summit in Athens on Wednesday which UN Secretary General Kofi Annan will also attend.

The latest bout of diplomatic activity came as splits surfaced over America's role in Iraq post-war.

The UK has been attempting to put the best possible gloss on the refusal of one of Iraq's main Shia groups to join a conference in the southern city of Nasiriya to discuss the country's future.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the opposition to coalition plans for a new Iraqi government had shown the first signs of a fledgling democracy.

Downing Street said the conference was an important first step towards the Iraqi people running their own country.

Shia protest

The Shia Muslim group is boycotting the conference in protest at US involvement in restructuring, prompting calls for the UN to take over the rebuilding.

Mr Straw - who is in Qatar - said he was "glad politics had broken out, that these Shias feel able to express their opinion".

"Under the Saddam regime they would have ended up in the torture chambers of Basra or ended up dead," said Mr Straw.

He said Iraqis had been traumatised by "almost three decades of terror and fear".

"We've got to break through that," he said.

The minister described the meeting in Nasiriya as the "beginning of the process to restore government".

Chemical weapons

On Monday the prime minister told MPs that the war with Iraq was not yet over.

Tony Blair and Gerhard Schroeder

He said much had been achieved over the past four weeks and that Saddam Hussein's regime had lost control of the bulk of the country.

Mr Straw, who has been touring the Gulf, has already met Jay Garner, the US interim administrator for Iraq.

And he insisted Syria was not the coalition's next target in their campaign against weapons of mass destruction.

Mr Straw made the statement as American rhetoric against Syria became increasingly hostile, with President George Bush saying he believed it had chemical weapons.

Downing Street stressed the UK Government believed that Syria was listening to coalition concerns.

The BBC's Stephen Sackur
"There is the sign of a change of mood in the European Union"

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