Friday, October 24, 2003

Thanks and no thanks

Germany has offered some good news, and some bad news.

First the good:

As the German Bundestag on Friday voted to expand the scope of Germany's peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan, Defense Minister Peter Struck said German troops wouldn't get mixed up in the country's war on drugs.

Until now, the mission of the German army, or Bundeswehr, in Afghanistan has been contained to the area in and around the capital, Kabul. But to combat increasing lawlessness in remote parts of the country, the leaders of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan say it's necessary to set up a center of command in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz.

Due to constitutional requirements, the German parliament has to approve any military deployments or, as in this case, significant changes to deployments. The petition before parliament on Friday included an extension of the German ISAF contingent's mandate to October 13, 2004, as well as increasing the number of soldiers from 1800 to as many as 2250. A team of 230 - 450 soldiers is set to be deployed in Kunduz.

An overwhelming majority of 531 out of 593 MP's voted in favor of the motion. Only 57 MP's voted against, while 5 abstained. Despite criticism about the government's handling of the expansion plan, the opposition conservatives and liberals supported the new mission.

Now the bad news:

Just two days before the Iraq donors conference in Madrid, Germany’s Minister for Cooperation and Development, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, has said that Germany is opposed to the cancellation of Iraq's huge debt burden, which is estimated at €110 billion ($128 billion) and called for a new UN resolution that will share out responsibility for reconstruction. Wieczorek-Zeul said that, given Iraq's oil riches, it would be better to have credit financing ahead of the windfall oil revenues will bring to the country. She also added that steps should be taken to prevent the United States from taking control of Iraqi oil revenues, saying profits should be used for reconstruction and not to support U.S. companies. Donor countries and organizations will gather this week to discuss ways of financing Iraq's total reconstruction which the World Bank and the United Nations have estimated at around $36 billion for 2004-2007.

How's that for passive-aggressive?


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