Iran General NewsSchroeder`s Iran comments criticized

Schroeder`s Iran comments criticized

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UPI: Germany`s opposition criticized Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder`s warnings over the use of force against Iran,
saying he was exploiting the issue to get re-elected. “Schroeder is acting totally irresponsibly for electoral purposes,” Wolfgang Schaeuble, senior foreign policy expert of the opposition Christian Democratic Union, told the daily Die Welt. “He`s acting as though the problem lies in Washington, rather than Tehran, even though he knows it isn`t so.” United Press International

By Stefan Nicola

KEHL AM RHEIN, Germany – Germany`s opposition criticized Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder`s warnings over the use of force against Iran, saying he was exploiting the issue to get re-elected.

“Schroeder is acting totally irresponsibly for electoral purposes,” Wolfgang Schaeuble, senior foreign policy expert of the opposition Christian Democratic Union, told the daily Die Welt. “He`s acting as though the problem lies in Washington, rather than Tehran, even though he knows it isn`t so.”

The CDU nevertheless wants a diplomatic and peaceful resolution of the crisis, he said.

Schroeder on Saturday told voters in Hanover a military strike to punish Iran for its uranium enrichment activities was out of the question. The possibility of a strike was floated by the Bush administration over the weekend.

“Let`s leave military options aside, we have already seen that they don`t work,” Schroeder said, which resulted in cheers from the roughly 10,000 voters present.

“I can definitely rule out that a government under my leadership would take part (in a military strike),” he added in an interview with Bild am Sonntag newspaper on Sunday.

Schroeder`s comments bring foreign policy into an election campaign that was so far dominated by the struggling German economy. The anti-war comments are reminiscent of his campaign three years ago, when Schroeder strongly opposed military action against Iraq and later refused to support the U.S.-led Iraq war. His strong anti-war position was largely credited for his victory in the 2002 federal elections, when Schroeder reversed unfavorable polling results. Relations between Washington and Berlin became frigid during and shortly after the march on Baghdad.

The chancellor is using Iran to fish for votes, just as he did three years ago, lawmakers from the CDU and the Free Democrats said.

“The (chancellor`s) statement is a blatant effort to instrumentalize the nuclear quarrel with Iran for domestic purposes,” Wolfgang Bosbach, deputy CDU parliamentary leader, Monday told the German daily Berliner Zeitung.

The Islamic republic last week — despite criticism from the European Union and the United States — began uranium enrichment at its Isfahan plant; the process had been suspended in November 2004 to allow for negotiations. Iran also rejected proposals from Britain, France and Germany — the so-called EU-3 — who last week offered Tehran a comprehensive package of incentives, giving it access to “peaceful” nuclear power and economic and political aid. Iran can, under its international treaty obligations, enrich uranium but Washington and others fear the Islamic republic is using the process to secretly, and illegally, make nuclear weapons. Iran denies the charge. Isfahan is Iran`s main uranium conversion facility. Uranium enriched to a low level is used to produce nuclear fuel, while greater enrichment makes it usable in atomic weapons.

“An American president can never categorically eliminate the military option,” Schaeuble said. “President Bush told me during my visit that the United Nations Security Council will discuss economic sanctions against Iran if all fails.”

Schaeuble last month traveled to Washington and met with Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and national security adviser Stephen Hadley.

The opposition believes the chancellor`s warnings against a military intervention in Iran risks undermining international solidarity for electoral gain.

“The chancellor is creating the fatal impression in Tehran that the world community is not united anymore,” Schaeuble said. “In doing so, he is accepting the consequence that the danger of an Iranian bomb will grow.”

Knud Krakau, trans-Atlantic relations expert at Berlin`s Free University, Monday told United Press International in a telephone interview “the entire row is much about campaigning.”

The discussion is not likely to cut open old rifts in the recently smoothed over German-American relationship, he said. But it might help the chancellor to a few extra votes, Tim Stuchtey, head of the Berlin-based think tank HumboldtInstitution on Trans-Atlantic Issues, told UPI Monday.

“He might get some votes from the leftist union,” he said. “Schroeder has created this discussion out of nothing to position himself once again as the peace-chancellor.”

A union of two leftist political parties has recently amassed voter support in Germany`s east with populist election promises.

Keeping in mind Iran`s stance, it is only to be expected that Washington was keeping all its options open, Stuchtey said.

“Everything else wouldn`t be smart at this point of the negotiations.”

Stuchtey agreed with Krakau`s assessment that trans-Atlantic relations would not significantly suffer after the statements. Even in the case of a grand coalition of SPD and CDU, the Christian Democrats, as the strongest party in Germany, will get the chancellorship.

“The interest of the Bush-administration in Schroeder is likely near zero since he is not going to be chancellor again,” he said.

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