INTERNATIONAL

Blair, Schroeder discuss Iraq

BRUSSELS APRIL 15. The German Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, and the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, on Tuesday met in Hanover to discuss the Iraq and West Asia situation. The German Government is keen to mend its diplomatic fences with the United States. Berlin proposes to move on from its role as a leading opponent of the Iraq war to one of a prominent player in the political and economic reconstruction of Iraq. It also has close trading and economic relations with Iran.

The German strategy is to first "drastically improve'' its diplomatic and political dialogue with Britain and make efforts to mend relations with Washington, after nine months of bruising diplomatic exchanges over Iraq. This strategy also has the support of France and Russia — as highlighted at the recent summit of French, German and Russian Government leaders in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministers of the European Union have agreed to draw up a "common strategy" on weapons of mass destruction. The 15 Foreign Ministers on Monday night asked Javier Solana, the E.U.' co-ordinator for foreign and security policies, to continue to work on a long-term strategy and "threat assessment'' to prevent differing perceptions among the E.U. members. Mr. Solana is widely rated as a "consensus' man on both sides of the Atlantic and has a close rapport with senior officials in the Bush administration.

Mr. Solana's team will report back to the European Foreign Ministers before the heads of Government summit in June, when the leaders will attempt to forge a "consensus'' approach with the U.S. on Iraq and other unfolding crises in West Asia, mainly relating to policy options on Syria and Iran. Mr Solana's team will also examine problems relating to export controls and strengthening the International Atomic Energy Agency.

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