Thursday, November 20, 2003

"French trap"

It looks like the Germans are coming back to reality and that US-German relations are starting to thaw.

German support for the latest U.S. policy moves in Iraq reflects a growing feeling at home that Germany has grown too close to France with its strident opposition to the U.S.-led campaign.

Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, visiting Washington this week, was unstinting in his remarks welcoming the U.S. commitment to hand over sovereignty to a transitional Iraqi government by the end of June.

"It is a very important step forward," he said. "We'll have now a timetable for a transition of authority and sovereignty to an Iraqi government."

That stood in sharp contrast with the reaction of his French counterpart, Dominique de Villepin, who criticized the decision in an interview with the French Catholic daily La Croix. "My feeling is that [the June 30 deadline] is too late," he said.

President Bush praised German peacekeeping efforts in Afghanistan in an interview with British reporters ahead of his visit to London.

"Obviously there was some disgruntlement about the decision made on Iraq," Mr. Bush said. "But I would remind you that Germany has troops in Afghanistan supporting that mission there, for which we are very grateful. They are doing a darn good job."

The thaw comes amid growing concern in Germany that Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's government had damaged its own interests by getting too close to Paris.

Ulrike Guerot, of the government-subsidized Research Institute of the German Council on Foreign Relations, said the antiwar alliance had driven Germany into "a French trap."


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