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Germany’s Schroeder to Visit White House

Times Staff Writer

Moving to further repair a rift over the Iraq war, President Bush has invited German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder for a White House visit Feb. 27, officials announced Friday.

Schroeder will visit during a U.S. trip and the two leaders will discuss events in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East, a German Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

The White House announcement didn’t mention Iraq but praised Germany as “a long-standing ally” and a “key partner in forging closer U.S.-European political and economic relations.”

It said that as a “major contributor to the effort to bring peace and democracy to Afghanistan, Germany has led the way in expanding NATO’s international security assistance beyond Kabul.”

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Schroeder joined French President Jacques Chirac and Russian President Vladimir V. Putin in strongly opposing the war in Iraq. Former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger described the disagreement over the war and related issues as the most serious transatlantic rift in the post-World War II era.

But with Europe eager to see stability in Iraq, Schroeder’s government has sought to repair relations.

In December, in response to U.S. urging, Schroeder said his government would seriously consider easing requirements for Iraq to repay its debt to Germany. The chancellor’s administration also has indicated that it would not stand in the way if the North Atlantic Treaty Organization chose to send a peacekeeping force to Iraq this year.

The Bush administration has been urging NATO to take charge of the international peacekeeping force that is patrolling south-central Iraq under Polish command.

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Still unresolved is whether the administration will permit German companies to bid for prime reconstruction contracts in Iraq. The Pentagon said in December that Germany, France and Russia were among numerous countries excluded from the bidding.

Since then, U.S. and European officials have signaled that the Bush administration is ready to give French and German companies clearance to take part in the next round of bidding. But no decision has been announced.

Schroeder and Bush met in September on the sidelines of a United Nations General Assembly meeting in a sign that relations were on the mend.

Schroeder has not been to the White House in almost two years.


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