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Germany takes up key U.N. role

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has said Germany is "not prepared to engage in adventures"

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LONDON, England -- Germany's opposition to a possible war with Iraq is likely to come under increasing attention as Berlin takes a seat on the U.N. Security Council.

But German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has appeared to soften his opposition to military action, saying in his new year message: "We Germans know from our own experience that dictators can sometimes only be stopped with force."

Last year Schroeder angered U.S. President George W. Bush by saying he would not support a war on Iraq militarily or financially.

Now, as one of 10 non-permanent members of the Security Council, Germany is set to play an important role in deciding how the United Nations responds to the current arms inspections in Iraq.

Germany will hold the Security Council presidency in February, a month which many observers have identified as the most likely time for war to be launched if Iraqi President Saddam Hussein fails to comply with U.S. demands to get rid of weapons of mass destruction. Iraq insists it does not have any such weapons.

But Germany's ambassador to London on Wednesday said Berlin would not use its position on the Security Council as a platform from which to lead opposition to war.

Thomas Matussek said Germany would focus its efforts on securing a "co-operative" solution which preserves global peace and stability.

A resolution backing war would need the support of a majority of the Security Council's 15 members, which include two Muslim states, Pakistan and Syria.

A veto from any of the council's five permanent members -- the United States, Britain, Russia, France and China -- would prevent it from passing.

Matussek told the BBC: "As far as the U.N. is concerned, we will be very responsible and engaged in trying to secure world peace and international security, but we will concentrate on co-operative efforts to conflict resolution and we want to further develop conflict prevention strategy and post-conflict strategy."

Germany would not go into any vote on military action with a closed mind, Matussek added.

Also joining the Security Council on Wednesday for two-year terms as non-permanent members were Spain, Pakistan, Angola and Chile.

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