- MUNICH, Germany (Reuters)
- Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld faces a hostile reception on Friday
from German politicians and peace activists over his remark that the country's
anti-war stance put it on a par with Libya and Cuba.
- Rumsfeld was due to address an annual security conference
in the southern German city of Munich on Saturday and was expected to argue
that allowing more time for weapons inspections in Iraq makes sense only
if Iraq cooperates with the United Nations.
- Mass protests are planned in Munich on Friday and at
the weekend against the security conference, Rumsfeld's visit and the threat
of war in the Gulf, with police warning of possible violence. Some 3,500
officers are on duty to try keep the peace.
- Rumsfeld's comments on Wednesday putting Germany in the
same category as Libya and Cuba as states that would not be helpful in
any international effort to overthrow Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein have
infuriated many, putting new pressure on already strained transatlantic
- "These comments of Rumsfeld should help bring more
people out onto the street," said Raied Naieem, a member of the anti-globalization
group Attac that is organizing the protests. Rumsfeld is due to fly onto
Germany from Italy later on Friday.
- Rumsfeld's comments, which came just weeks after he riled
France and Germany by labeling them "Old Europe" for their reticence
over military action, angered many politicians too.
- Karsten Voigt, the German government's top adviser on
U.S. relations, said Rumsfeld was forgetting that Germany was deeply engaged
in peacekeeping missions in the Balkans and Afghanistan.
- "Whoever fails to mention that publicly, is making
a political mistake, I think," he told Bayerischen Rundfunk radio.
- While Germany has ruled out involvement in any military
strike on Iraq, it has pledged fly-over rights and freedom of movement
for the some 70,000 U.S. forces based in the country and German troops
are helping to guard U.S. bases.
- TIES STRAINED
- In a separate interview with DeutschlandRadio, Voigt
said: "It is not wise to so frivolously endanger a partnership, which
is of high significance for us and the Americans, through negligent comments."
- Klaus Naumann, former chaiman of NATO's military committee,
said however justified U.S. criticism might be of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's
opposition to a war with Iraq, Rumsfeld's comments were no way to treat
a loyal ally.
- "Germany is and remains a reliable alliance partner,"
he told ZDF television. "That's not the way to treat partners.
- Schroeder, whose anti-war stance is popular in a country
still haunted by World War II and was credited with helping him win a second
term last year, has come under increasing pressure to soften his position
or risk isolation if Washington eventually wins over other skeptical allies
- Richard Perle, a senior adviser to the Defense Department,
blamed his center-left government for the relationship between Berlin and
Washington reaching such a low.
- "After the way the current government has treated
the United States, repairing the damage in the near future is unlikely,"
he told the Handelsblatt business daily. "With a new government that
would certainly be possible."
- Germany, which holds the presidency of the 15-member
U.N. Security Council, along with veto-wielding members France, Russia
and China want inspectors to have more time to find out whether Iraq possesses
weapons of mass destruction.
- As he arrived in Rome for talks on Friday, Rumsfeld insisted
there would be "no hard sell" directed at France or Germany.
- "They are going to make up their own minds and they
have. Germany certainly has. I would assume they would stick with it. I
just don't know. I don't know what France will do," he said.
- He said the number of U.S. troops in Germany could be
reduced under a study of U.S. basing needs that has been underway for two
years, but gave no hint decisions were close.
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