Germany's Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer says he respects the opinion of several former Communist European countries which support the U.S. position on the need to use force if Iraq refuses to disarm very soon. But during a visit to Hungary, Mr. Fischer made clear Germany still believes a peaceful solution must be found on Iraq and that Europe should have a common security policy.

Foreign Minister Fischer arrived in Hungary as part of his visit to several former Communist countries which, unlike Germany, support the tough American policy toward Iraq.

Speaking after talks with his Hungarian counterpart Laszlo Kovacs, Mr. Fischer told reporters Germany remains convinced that war with Iraq can and must be avoided under the latest United Nations resolution.

Mr. Fischer said the inspections called for in U.N. resolution 1441 should continue. He said Germany would only support going to war against Iraq if there were no alternative.

Mr. Fischer also said he regrets the rift over this issue between Germany and the United States, which he stressed is his country's strongest ally. He recalled how the United States played a key role in freeing Germany from Nazism and communism, and helped with its re-unification.

Mr. Fischer also suggested it is important to respect the opinions of several future European Union members who support the U.S. policy. That remark came in contrast to remarks by French President Jaques Chirac, who openly condemned these nations for backing the U.S. position. Mr. Fischer said despite the obvious disagreements, Europe should work toward a common security policy.

He also said the current dispute should not effect the European Union enlargement process.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs told reporters it is equally important for Hungary to be part of U.S.-led, NATO and European Union efforts.