German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder made clear Thursday that past differences with Britain concerning Iraq are over and his country is ready to focus on Iraq's future stability. Ruth Elkins reports from Berlin, where Chancellor Schroeder met with British Prime Minister Tony Blair for informal talks ahead of a three country summit with France next week.
In a short news conference after a working dinner in Berlin Thursday evening, Mr. Schroeder said Germany is ready to contribute to Iraq's reconstruction.
He said it is important to move on from the reasons for the war on Iraq. He said he wants to focus on creating future stability and democratizing the country after the fall of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein last year.
Germany always strongly opposed the war on Iraq, whereas Britain was America's strongest ally. Mr. Blair echoed Mr. Schroeder, saying past differences over Iraq shouldn't stop the pair from working together to ensure Iraq's future stability. He said the talks were extremely constructive and both want to see Iraq become a democratic, prosperous and stable country.
The meeting was widely seen as an opportunity to show any rifts over Iraq have been resolved before a tri-lateral summit next week in Berlin, where Mr. Blair and Mr. Schroeder will be joined by French President Jacques Chirac. That meeting is being seen as an opportunity for the three to shore up their positions on EU expansion before a larger EU conference in March.
Mr. Blair and Mr. Schroeder also used the informal meeting to discuss the stalled EU constitution and their positions on Afghanistan. There, too, Mr. Schroeder said Germany is ready to provide a "lasting" contribution to help stabilize the country.