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Germany Will Not Block NATO Deployment in Iraq - 2004-02-07

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said Saturday Germany would not block U.S. plans for a NATO troop deployment to Iraq.

Speaking at a two-day international security conference in Munich, Mr. Fischer said his country would not stand in the way of NATO taking a wider role in Iraq.

But he said he was "deeply skeptical" of the plan, and said Germany would not send its own troops to Iraq.

Other NATO delegates appeared to support the call by U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for NATO to lead the 9,000-man multinational stabilizing force in south central Iraq, when sovereignty is returned to the Iraqi people on July 1. The multinational force is currently under Polish command.

NATO head Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the alliance must commit to a future role in Iraq, but he cautioned that sending troops will require United Nations support.

Mr. Rumsfeld defended the U.S. decision to invade Iraq. He said pre-emptive military action was justified in a world where terror and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction potentially threatened thousands of lives.

Not all his listeners were in agreement. Mr. Fischer said Germany, which opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq last year, was still not convinced that the war on Iraq could be justified.

So far, the conference, which ends Sunday, has been without incident. Around 1,500 people staged a protest outside the conference, but police said it was a largely peaceful demonstration.