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Bush Thanks German Leader For Help in Afghanistan

President Bush met with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder at the White House Thursday. The men discussed the global economy and the war on terrorism.

President Bush thanked Chancellor Schroeder for sending German peacekeeping troops to Afghanistan and for offering to help develop a new Afghan police force. Mr. Bush said Germany and the United States are "linked up well" in a mutual desire "to leave the world more peaceful."

Following their Oval Office meeting, Mr. Schroeder said it is crucial for Afghanistan to develop its own police and military to maintain security once international peacekeepers leave.

The German chancellor is the first European leader to meet with Mr. Bush since international criticism surfaced about the treatment of suspected terrorists being held at a U.S. military base in Cuba. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer has said those detainees should be treated as prisoners of war.

President Bush says all those in U.S. custody are being treated in the spirit of the Geneva conventions but will not be classified as prisoners-of-war because they are not part of a national army. It is an important distinction as prisoners of war are not required to divulge information about future military operations. Under their current designation as "unlawful combatants," the detainees in Cuba are being interrogated about possible future terrorist attacks.

Before a meeting with Congressional leaders Thursday, Chancellor Schroeder said there was "no reason to doubt" that detainees held by the U.S. military in Cuba are being treated "in accordance with the U.S. Constitution and international law."

The leaders also discussed the global economy with Chancellor Schroeder complimenting President Bush on indications that the U.S. recession may be ending. The German leader said there are positive signals, including a slight rise in U.S. Gross Domestic Product, that are good news not only for the U.S. economy but for the global economy as well.

Chancellor Schroeder has economic problems of his own at home with a growing budget deficit and German unemployment approaching four million. His government has lowered projections of annual economic growth to less than one percent.