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German leaders warn on Iraq attack

Chancellor Schroeder: "Not prepared to engage in adventures"  

BERLIN, Germany -- German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer have cautioned against a possible U.S. attack on Iraq, stressing the need to solve the broader Middle East conflict first.

"I can only warn against talking about or considering a war against Iraq without thinking of the consequences and without a political concept for the whole Middle East," Schroeder told a rally of his Social Democratic Party (SDP) in Hanover on Saturday.

Fischer expressed a similar position in a television interview to be broadcast on Sunday.

"To talk now of having to push through a change in government in Baghdad with a military intervention, that's a false assessment of priorities," he said.

Schroeder reiterated his view that Germany stood beside the United States after the September 11 attacks, but was not prepared to engage in "adventures."

"Germany is no longer a country where chequebook diplomacy replaces politics," he said on Saturday.

On Tuesday, Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac cautioned that they could not support a U.S. assault on Iraq without a United Nations mandate, which U.S. and British officials argue is not legally necessary.

On Thursday, Baghdad hinted it might let U.N. inspectors return to investigate its suspected weapons programmes for the first time since 1998 as U.S. President George W. Bush reaffirmed his aim of toppling Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

That brought a cool response from U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell who said on Saturday that Secretary of State Colin Powell says he doubts the seriousness of Iraq's offer to resume weapons talks with the United Nations.

"We have seen the Iraqis try to fiddle with the inspection regime before," Powell said in the Philippines, as he wrapped up a diplomatic tour of Asia. (Powell sceptical on Iraq offer)

Washington said Iraq's offer of talks on arms inspectors did not alter its ultimate goal of seeing Saddam removed from power.

Schroeder hopes to boost support for the SDP in a September election by stressing his opposition to a possible U.S. attack on Iraq, party officials said on Friday.

SPD General Secretary Franz Muentefering said even if Germany were not involved in an attack, a war would do more damage to its sagging economy, adding that the SPD's campaign slogan "We go our own way" also applied to foreign policy.

Last week British Prime Minister Tony Blair says an attack on Iraq is not imminent.

Blair has so far refused to commit to allowing Britain's parliament a vote ahead of any military action aimed at Hussein.




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