Iraq

Germany's red line in its aid to Iraq: no troops

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By Helmut Reuter, dpa

Berlin (dpa) - The red line that Germany refuses to cross in aiding Iraq remains as clear today as it was before the war there: Berlin will not put any German soldiers on Iraqi soil.

But from the moment the fighting began, it has been equally clear that Germany wants to contribute to reconstruction in Iraq.

An international conference to be held in Brussels on Wednesday is to focus on this lengthy and difficult process. The meeting is intended to be a political summit rather than a donor conference. Germany will be represented by Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer.

Back in 2002, Germany along with France was one of the bitterest critics of the war.

Berlin's criticism led to a sharp cooling in its relations with the United States. The tension was not declared over until a visit to Germany by U.S. President George W. Bush this year, nearly two years after the war was officially declared ended in May 2003.

Germany was quick to join in reconstruction aid, and mounted an emergency aid package in 2003 worth 24 million euros (29 million dollars), mainly in the form of food and assistance to refugees.

The heaviest financial load for Germany has been in the form of the debt-relief initiative of the Club of Paris. Agreed in November 2004, this provides for Iraq to be forgiven 80 per cent of its sovereign foreign debt by 2008.

Germany is owed about 5.9 billion euros by Iraq, and 4.7 billion euros of that sum is being written off in three stages, the first of which began on January 1 this year.

German government sources anticipate that, despite the daily shock of terrorist bombings, the Brussels conference will put impetus into the work ahead. The three-pronged approach comprises the political and constitutional process, reconstruction and restoring security.

Time is short. A draft constitution is supposed to be completed by August 15, with the people of Iraq to vote for or against it at a referendum two months later.

Germany has focussed on training Iraq's police and armed forces, while sticking to the rule that it can only help from beyond Iraq's frontiers.

Some 420 Iraqi police detectives and 30 police bodyguards are being trained in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Under an E.U. plan to promote the rule of law passed in February 2005, a further 700 Iraqis are to be trained in police and prison-management duties.

A NATO summit in June 2004 in Istanbul decided on the training of Iraqi military personnel. Some staff officers have been brought to Germany for training, but most were trained in the emirates.

The entire cost of such German aid since the end of the war, including contributions to E.U. aid, totals some 200 million euros so far. That is far short of the amount the United States is spending: just to keep troops in Iraq costs up to 4 billion dollars per month.

U.S. officials do not seriously expect Germany to deploy its military to Baghdad or Basra.

Among Germany's political parties, despite differences over Germany's strategic choices before the Iraq war, there is a firm consensus that the troops must be kept out of Iraq.

"There is a clear 'no' to sending German soldiers to Iraq,'' the opposition Christian Democratic Union (CDU) expert on foreign policy, Friedbert Pflueger, has repeatedly said.

Analysts do not expect any change in that stance if the CDU wins power at the general election that is likely in September. dpa hr jbp ms

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