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German Leader Makes Post-Tiff Call to Bush

November 09, 2002|From a Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — President Bush on Friday took a telephone call from Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, their first direct contact since the German leader's strong criticism of U.S. policy on Iraq severely strained relations between the men.

Bush accepted Schroeder's congratulations on the U.N. Security Council's passage of a U.S.-backed resolution that probably will send international weapons inspectors back into Iraq. The men talked for about 10 minutes on other topics of mutual interest, including Afghanistan, Turkey, North Atlantic Treaty Organization expansion and the U.S.-declared war on terrorism, aides said.

A German government spokesman in Berlin described the talks as "constructive and trusting." A White House spokesman portrayed them as more businesslike than warm.

"The president's response ... is that he's getting down to business, moving forward on common agenda items," said Sean McCormack of the National Security Council.

Senior administration officials have said privately that the quarrel has marked the lowest point in U.S.-German relations since World War II.

Bush has told officials he felt that Schroeder, who narrowly won reelection in September, went back on a personal promise not to attack American policy as a means of gaining an edge in that tight campaign. The president has privately contrasted Schroeder's conduct with that of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who is frank, even if his messages are not always to the liking of U.S. officials, according to Republican Party sources.

German officials have contended that there were honest differences over Iraq policy and stressed their desire to repair relations.

Also Friday, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld met with German Defense Minister Peter Struck, whom he snubbed at a September gathering in Warsaw.

Struck said before the Friday meeting that he wanted a "new start" with the Americans.

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