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Blair, Schroeder seek to heal relations, Iraq

©Associated Press
April 16, 2003

HANOVER, Germany -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder sought Tuesday to portray the rebuilding of Iraq as a chance not only to improve the lives of Iraqis but also to repair strained trans-Atlantic ties.

Schroeder has been at odds with President Bush since opposing the war during his successful re-election campaign, and Tuesday's meeting was seen as an attempt by Blair to help mediate a rapprochement between Berlin and Washington.

Germany already has made gestures toward the United States, softening its rhetoric as soon as the war began and repeatedly welcoming the fall of the Iraqi regime.

"Whenever a dictator falls, mankind gains," Schroeder said. "There will always be conflict over what form that takes. I hope that the military gain in Iraq can be turned into a political gain for the people of Iraq and for the international community."

With the war nearing an end, the two leaders tried to focus on the opportunity presented by reconstruction without stumbling again over the role of the United Nations in postwar Iraq, another sticking point.

Germany wants a central role for the United Nations. And while Blair and Bush last week agreed the world body should be a vital player in rebuilding the country, it remains unclear how that will mesh with the Bush administration's desire for Washington to take the lead.

Britain's international development secretary, Clare Short, said Tuesday a transitional Iraqi government would be legitimate -- and able to attract funding from the international community -- only with U.N. involvement. Short, who had threatened to resign over the war in Iraq, also said Blair's Labor Party remained deeply troubled about the conflict.

Schroeder and Blair did not clarify how consensus on the United Nations' role can be achieved.

"It is very clear that in principle the United Nations must have a key role," Blair said. "It is important to agree on principle, then discuss among us details on how that role might be fulfilled."

Blair said he and Schroeder agreed on the need for democracy in Iraq.

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