Mr. Fischer Heads to Washington

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Posted by Esarhaddon from ( on Monday, July 14, 2003 at 11:56PM :

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer is expected in Washington early this week. Topic number one is likely to be NATO and Germany's role in postwar Iraq. DW-WORLD takes a look at his expected agenda.

This week, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer becomes the fifth German cabinet member to travel to Washington since the end of the U.S. military invasion of Iraq.

Following post-war visits by Germany's economic, finance, defense and interior ministers, Fischer is heading to the beltway at a time when America could use a little international help in Iraq. Since the official end of major fighting in May, 31 American GIs have been killed in guerrilla or suicide attacks.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Senate called for the Bush administration to appeal to NATO for military help in securing the peace in Iraq. Germany, one of the most vocal war opponents and a NATO member, might get the opportunity to lobby for a more central role for the United Nations in postwar Iraq in exchange for its assistance.

Sending soldiers to Iraq after all?
A story in Sunday's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung quoted unnamed sources in the government saying the overstretched German army might be able to send soldiers to Iraq if it reduced its troop commitment in the Balkans. The paper reported Washington, Berlin and war opponent France are looking to find a "face-saving solution."

Chancellor Gerhard Schröder told German television on Friday that the government's position had not changed. Analysts expect Iraq to be the topic A when Fischer meets this week with counterpart Secretary of State Colin Powell, Security Adviser Condolleezza Rice and Vice President Dick Cheney.

German, European diplomatic help in Iran
Though needing help, Washington also realizes the German army doesn't have much room to maneouver. Plus, the United States would like to see its ally extend its presence in Afghanistan as part of the United Nations security force outside of Kabul. More than 2,000 German soldiers are taking part in the Afghanistan force. In total, more than 8,000 German soldiers are in deployment on three different continents, according to the Defense Ministry.

"They won't confront Fischer directly with demands," Bob Livingston of the Institute for Contemporary German Studies in Washington told Deutsche Welle. "The Germans would be overstretched and they know that in the Pentagon."

The Americans might also tap into Germany and the European Union's working relationship with Iran, with tensions between Teheran and Washington high because of Iran's nuclear program.

"Germany as a nuclear weapons-free country has of course a great interest in ensuring other countries also don't have nuclear weapons," said Livingston. "I'm always surprised that the Germans don't assume a stronger role."

-- Esarhaddon
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