Schröder rejects Bush assertion he initially backed US-led war on Iraq

 

FORMER GERMAN chancellor Gerhard Schröder has dismissed as “untrue” claims that, initially, he was a supporter of a US-led war on Iraq.

The claim, made by former US president George W Bush in his memoirs, has revived an old enmity between the two leaders that damaged bilateral relations ahead of the Iraq war.

In his memoir Decision Points, Mr Bush remembers hitting it off with Mr Schröder initially and being impressed by his support after the September 11th attacks.

Just four months later, in January 2002, Mr Bush recalls discussing with Mr Schröder the growing stand-off between the US and Saddam Hussein over allegations that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

After he judged diplomacy with Iraq had been exhausted, Mr Bush recalls in his memoirs telling the German leader how he was prepared to use military force against Iraq.

According to Mr Bush, Mr Schröder replied: “What is true of Afghanistan is true of Iraq. Nations that sponsor terror must face consequences. If you make it fast and make it decisive, I will be with you.”

Mr Bush said he took this as a “statement of support” and was dismayed when Mr Schröder took a different view later that year.

“As someone who valued personal diplomacy, I put a high premium on trust,” wrote Mr Bush. “Once that trust was violated, it was hard to have a constructive relationship again.”

In the autumn of 2002, Mr Schröder came from behind to win re-election after using stump speeches to denounce the US “military misadventures” in Iraq.

Yesterday the German leader said his January 2002 support for an invasion of Iraq was not as presented by Mr Bush. “The former president of the United States is not telling the truth,” he said.

“I made clear that Germany would stand beside the US should Iraq . . . prove to have provided protection and hospitality to al-Qaeda fighters. As it became clear during 2002, this connection was false and misconstrued.”

In his own memoirs, Mr Schröder was far from flattering of the US president, dismissing his “near-biblical semantics”.

He expressed concern that Mr Bush gave the impression that his “political decisions are a result of this conversation with God”.

According to Mr Schröder’s former spokesman Uwe Karsten-Heye, Berlin realised early on that they were dealing with a man of a “low intelligence threshold who had no idea what was going on”.