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Britain, Germany Agree to Work Together to Rebuild Iraq - 2003-04-15

The leaders of Britain and Germany have reaffirmed that relations between them remain good despite sharp differences over the Iraq war, and have vowed to work together to rebuild Iraq and deal with other challenges facing Europe.

After a meeting in Hanover, Germany, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and British Prime Minister Tony Blair vowed to deal with the future in a spirit of cooperation. Germany, along with France, led European opposition to the Iraq war, while Britain sent troops to fight in the coalition to oust Saddam Hussein.

Analysts say Mr. Schroeder's opposition to the war won him votes in last year's German general election, but damaged Germany's close friendship with the United States and strained ties with Britain.

But in his remarks Tuesday, Mr. Blair put difficulties over Iraq aside and emphasized the strong ties between Germany and Britain. "Whatever differences there were before the conflict began in Iraq, the state of our bilateral relations is extremely strong and will remain so. Whatever the circumstances were that brought about the conflict in Iraq and the debates we've had, I think what is important is, as the Chancellor has just said to you, how much agreement there can be now about how we manage the future in Iraq and elsewhere," Mr. Blair said.

German Chancellor Schroeder, for his part, said now is the time to concentrate on problems arising out of the new situation in Iraq. He said that the United Nations must play a key role in the reconstruction of Iraq - a long-standing position of Germany, France and other key European nations. Mr. Schroeder is heard here through a translator.

"There's no secret that Germany is of the opinion that the restoration of Iraq has to take place under the umbrella of the United Nations. What that means over the next few weeks and months, that has to be clarified by the allied forces in conjunction with the United Nations," Mr. Schroeder said.

Prime Minister Blair said Germany and Britain agree in principle that the U.N. should have a key role, but they will discuss the details of how this role will be fulfilled over the coming weeks. The United States opposes a leading role for the United Nations, except in humanitarian aid, and plans to install an interim government under the control of the coalition that fought the war.

This was the first meeting of the German and British leaders since the U.S.-led war was launched on March 20.