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Joschka Fischer: Speedier Iraq transition is key

Joschka Fischer
Joschka Fischer

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. relations with Germany were badly strained over the war in Iraq, and there's still considerable disagreement in the aftermath. But the German Foreign Minister is praising the U.S. plan for stepping up the transition to Iraqi self-rule. CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer spoke with Germany's Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer in Washington about moves to rebuild the relationship.

BLITZER: The Bush administration has appealed to Germany to help out militarily and financially in Iraq. And you gave Washington, in effect, a no and no. Why?

FISCHER: Well, this was not an issue in the discussions I had today and not in the discussions between the president and the chancellor September in New York City.

BLITZER: Is that because you already let them know you were going to say no?

FISCHER: No. I mean we are partners on Afghanistan. After the United States, we are the second biggest troop contributor in Afghanistan. And we increased the amount of our troops, we opened a provincial reconstruction team now in Kunduz in the north. We are ready to help in police training...


FISCHER: In Iraq. We are ready to help also in military training. And we are ready for humanitarian assistance and for reconstruction. But we will militarily focus in Afghanistan.

BLITZER: What about writing a check to help in the reconstruction of Iraq? When they had the donor's conference in Madrid, Germany and France, Russia basically said no.

FISCHER: We didn't say no. About 200 million euros is our contribution. But as I said before, I mean, we are strongly engaged in Afghanistan. And this is quite costly.

BLITZER: But isn't Iraq important to Germany as well? Afghanistan is obviously very important. But isn't what happens to 25 million people in Iraq also important to the German people?

FISCHER: Of course, it is. And we'll contribute within our limited resources. But we have focus in Afghanistan. And, of course, it is very important what's going on in Iraq because we had our disputes about whether it is reasonable to go to war in Iraq, yes or no. But to win the peace, I think it's a common task because it would have negative consequences for all of us who are ready for that. Therefore, I'm here in Washington to talk with our friends.

BLITZER: To repair the relationship. As you know, President Bush was angry at your Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, during the political campaign in Germany for effectively using the U.S. role as a weapon to try to get himself reelected. They didn't speak for a long time. This relationship between President Bush and Chancellor Schroeder, how is it now?

FISCHER: Well I think it is excellent again. And don't forget we contributed a lot. I talked about Afghanistan. We are close allies. The first time after World War II first time we fought in Afghanistan. We suffered losses in Afghanistan, also for the first time after the second world war.

BLITZER: Should NATO take over the military responsibility in Iraq?

FISCHER: Well, first of all, NATO has taken over the responsibility in Afghanistan...

BLITZER: Should they use that model in Iraq?

FISCHER: It was not an issue in the discussion today.

BLITZER: But what do you think? General Wesley Clark, the former NATO supreme allied commander and now a Democratic presidential candidate, he wants NATO to take over. Others are saying that's the case. Germany is a key member of NATO.

FISCHER: Yes, of course. But we should see the experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq now. I think it is in the hands of the coalition, and this was a clear decision we made in the Security Council based on the request of the members of the coalition, especially of the United States.

BLITZER: I know you don't speak for France. But there's deep irritation, at least among many in the United States, at France and at Germany for this friction that has developed over the past year, year and a half. How are you going to fix this impression that's left, at least according to the public opinion polls, with a lot of Americans?

FISCHER: First of all, I think for both France and Germany, the United States is the most important ally outside of Europe. And we have close relations with the United States. I cannot speak on behalf of France, but I think what we want to achieve, what President Bush has outlined in his recent speech about the democratization of -- to create a new Middle East. Then we must cooperate very closely within the lines.

BLITZER: You think the administration is moving toward the German stance in terms of the transition to Iraqi rule in Iraq?

FISCHER: I wouldn't say a German stance. But I think it is very important that we have a visible transition of the authority to a new Iraqi authority, a transition of the serenity. If this could be sped up and more backed by the U.N., give a broader legitimization, a visible legitimization, I think this would be quite an important a step forward in the right direction.

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