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Schroeder backs world oil reserve release

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Schroeder: "The pictures we've seen on TV are difficult to bear."

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United States
Germany
Gerhard Schroeder
Angela Merkel

BERLIN, Germany (CNN) -- German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Friday said he supported a U.S. request for the release of international oil reserves in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Schroeder said Germany's had a "historic duty" to support the United States because of U.S. aid to post-World War II Germany.

"The United States of America has asked the International Energy Agency (IEA) to put part of the international oil reserves on the market. It is natural for us to support that American request," said Schroeder told a hastily called news conference.

More reserves would help the United States cope with an oil supply shortage caused by the hurricane.

The IEA did not confirm a U.S. request. But the 26 members of the IEA are debating by telephone and e-mail about releasing some oil because damage from Katrina curtailed production along the Gulf of Mexico.

A U.S. Embassy spokesman in Berlin said he's unaware of any U.S. request, although he said the United States welcomed any help offered.

Schroeder's statement comes amid concern across Europe over growing gasoline prices. Also, he is currently is in the middle of an election campaign, and polls are indicating he will lose to conservative challenger Angela Merkel. The election is September 18.

"The pictures we've seen on TV are difficult to bear," he said. "It's not only our historic duty, since we received so much help after the Second World War, but we should of course give all the help that's possible."

Schroeder said a "consequence" of an IEA move is "that national governments will give some of their reserves" to soften oil prices.

"There is also a great responsibility of the international companies that serve this market. Right after such a situation, with terrible pictures from America, they not only have business responsibilities but also human ones; there should be international solidarity," Schroeder said.

CNN Berlin Correspondent Chris Burns contributed to this report

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