German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder warned Thursday against an attack on Iraq, saying it could destroy the international coalition against terrorism.

In the last few days, members of Germany's Social Democratic and environmentalist government coalition have indicated Germany will not take part in an attack on Iraq, even if there is a United Nations mandate for a war against the country.

Now Chancellor Schroeder and his foreign minister Joschka Fischer have gone even further.

In an article in the popular daily newspaper Bild, Mr. Schroeder wrote he is warning against war with Iraq, saying it would set back the war against terrorism. War with Iraq, he wrote, would not be thought of as defensive, and that could destroy the international coalition against terrorism.

"The Middle East," in the chancellor's words "needs peace, not new war."

Foreign Minister Fischer took up the same theme in an interview with another daily newspaper, the respected Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

He said the United States might have the military means to force a change of regime in Iraq, but questioned whether its leaders understand the risks. He warned of a political and miltary upheaval in the Middle East that could force the United States to maintain a presence in the region for decades.

The two men's stance comes in advance of federal elections next month and they may be consciously tapping a popular anti-war mood among German voters.

But they are also taking a line that others in Europe may also favor. Only last month, Mr. Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac jointly stated they would insist on United Nations approval for any attack on Iraq. And in Italy and Spain too, senior officials have voiced their reservations.