Franco-German rapprochement with US
* French defence minister to visit US
* Germany offers military aid to Iraq
BAGHDAD: France and Germany showed new signs of better relations with the United States over Iraq Thursday, but a French-based journalists’ defence body said Washington was to blame for the deaths of two journalists killed by a US tank in Baghdad last year.
French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said cooperation between France and the United States, which were at loggerheads over the war to unseat Saddam Hussein, is “lively and very close”, notably in the fight against extremists.
“Beware of exaggerations or caricatures,” de Villepin was quoted in the Sud-Ouest daily’s Thursday edition as saying. “Our cooperation remains, on many issues, lively and very close.”
But he also noted disagreements on how to resolve international conflicts by either “basing one’s action on force only” or, as France suggests, “on a multilateral basis” that includes law, the principles of justice, solidarity and dialogue. Relations between France and the United States have been at rock-bottom since Paris refused to support the war to topple Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
French Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie is to visit the United States Thursday for the first time since the US-led invasion of Iraq in March.
She is expected to discuss bilateral defence relations with Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.
In Berlin, meanwhile, it was disclosed that Germany no longer rules out making a military contribution in postwar Iraq and would be ready to send medical evacuation airplanes to the war-torn country, the daily Die Welt reported.
The report said Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder told a closed-door meeting of parliament’s foreign affairs committee Wednesday that he would be willing to send MedEvac planes from Germany’s Bundeswehr armed forces to Iraq with a UN mandate.
If the UN were to give NATO such a mandate, which Die Welt said was expected, then “we will not stand in NATO’s way”, the newspaper quoted Schroeder as telling deputies. Such a move would also require the approval of the lower house of parliament.
The chancellor also reportedly said that Germany would do more to support NATO member countries already strongly engaged in Iraq such as Britain and Poland.
And the German Chambers of Commerce and Industry welcomed a US decision to consider allowing countries that opposed the war into the bidding for major reconstruction contracts in the war-torn country. —AFP