German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder addressed the World Economic Forum in Switzerland Friday and endorsed proposals for more assistance for economic development in Africa. The German leader also spoke about Iraq and Iran.
Mr. Schroeder made clear that Germany is insisting that Iran halt any plans to use nuclear material to produce weapons, but he was equally insistent that any dispute over Iran's intentions must be resolved by diplomacy and not military force.
"We are most decidedly in favor of the fact that Iran completely gives up military use of nuclear power forever, if at all possible. But we are as convinced that this is a target to be achieved through diplomatic and political means," said Mr. Schroeder. "This is a hot bed region already. And the last thing we need is another military conflict in that region. I am very explicit and outspoken about this because I want everybody to know where Germany stands."
President Bush has pointedly declined to reject the use of military action to force Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions. Germany, France and Britain have been seeking assurances from Iran that its controversial nuclear fuel program will not be used to develop weapons.
Chancellor Schroeder said he welcomes the advance of democracy in Iraq but has not altered his opposition to the U.S.-led invasion of the country in 2003.
"Irrespective of how one felt about the war against Iraq at the time - and yet again I haven't really changed my original opinion - but apart from that I have a vested interest in stabilization and democratization of Iraq, together with the alliance that has gone in," he said.
Mr. Schroeder said Germany is assisting Iraq by promoting debt relief and providing training for Iraqi police and security forces. He said Germany is also promoting regional stability by having large peacekeeping contingents in Afghanistan and in the Balkans.