'We Never Had a War'; German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Repairing His Ties with President Bush, and Future Cooperation in the Mideast

Newsweek, March 8, 2004 | Go to article overview

'We Never Had a War'; German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Repairing His Ties with President Bush, and Future Cooperation in the Mideast


Byline: Lally Weymouth

After more than a year of strained relations caused by President Bush's anger at Germany's opposition to the war in Iraq, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder received a warm welcome at the White House last Friday. According to one senior U.S. official, the president and the chancellor were all smiles, even cracking jokes. Today "there are no fundamental disagreements between the two countries," the official said. After his visit to the White House, Schroeder spoke to NEWSWEEK's Lally Weymouth.

Weymouth: Is the war between you and President Bush over?

Schroeder: We never had a war. What we had was a difference of opinion. We've overcome that and decided not to dwell on the past. As far as Iraq is concerned, both of us are interested in seeing a stable and democratic Iraq.

How will Germany contribute to that?

We already do that in a number of ways. First, we contribute to the reconstruction of the country by investing in infrastructure and restoring the country's water supply. In March, we will begin to train Iraqi police officers in the United Arab Emirates with Japan and France.

I would like to remind you of the very strong engagement that we continue to have in Afghanistan. The president has expressly acknowledged our cooperation there.

Reportedly, when President Bush visited Germany in the spring of 2002, you and he hit it off. But by that August, you had started to make harsh comments about the war in Iraq. What happened?

As far as this issue is concerned, I made a point of never personalizing it. There was a disagreement about the necessity of the war, and the justifications for it.

Officials in the U.S. administration say the president believed you told him during this same trip in 2002 that you would not support the war in Iraq but would not undermine it. Was that your understanding?

Each side has its notes, and I am speaking on the basis of my notes.

So your understanding was that you made no such commitment to the president?

We did not enter into any commitments. We met and talked.

During the buildup to the war in Iraq, Germany worked closely with France to undermine U.S. efforts. In the future will Germany actively oppose U.S. foreign policy?

The president and I both agreed to focus on the present and the future.

Is there a way that Germany would send troops to Iraq after the U. …

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