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Powell Visits Germany - 2003-05-15

Secretary of State Colin Powell is paying a 24 hour visit to Germany that officials hope will begin to repair bilateral ties damaged by Berlin's fierce opposition to the U.S. -led war in Iraq. Security is tight in the German capital as it awaits Mr. Powell's visit.

Mr. Powell is the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Germany since Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrat-led coalition barely won re-election last September. The party campaigned on a strong anti-war platform that angered Washington.

Mr. Schroeder and President Bush have not spoken to each other since last November. But top German and U.S. officials now say they want to move relations forward and try to work together in the future.

The Secretary of State will hold talks Friday with the Chancellor before sitting down to lunch with Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, who has good ties with Mr. Powell.

The German-U.S. talks will center on Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian situation, and frayed bilateral relations.

Analyst Gary Smith, who heads the American Academy in Berlin, says Mr. Powell will, first of all, be seeking Germany's support for a U.S.-backed resolution in the United Nations Security Council that would lift sanctions against Iraq. "If Germany supports the resolution, if Germany supports the lifting of sanctions against Iraq and, in effect, begins to free itself from the foreign policy grip of France, then this will not be without effect in the United States," he said.

Germany's anti-war partners, France and Russia, oppose such a resolution unless U.N. weapons inspectors are allowed back into Iraq to confirm that the country is free of weapons of mass destruction. Although Germany wants the United Nations to play a lead role in postwar Iraq, German diplomats say their country is prepared to be, as one put it, pragmatic and constructive in the Security Council debate on Iraqi reconstruction.

Earlier, Mr. Powell praised another member of the Security Council that supported the U.S. position on Iraq.

Speaking at a news conference in Sofia, he welcomed Bulgaria's support at a time he said the United States needed help from its friends. "It would have been easy for a small country such as Bulgaria to just lean back, step aside, and say we will not get involved," said secretary Powell. "We will just watch this. But Bulgaria knew what the right thing to do was and stood strong and stalwart. And we will never forget that."

Mr. Powell said a sign of how much the United States appreciates Bulgaria's support is the Senate's unanimous approval last week of its accession to NATO, which it has been invited to join next year.