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Bush, Schroeder Have 'Cordial' Exchange

Leaders meet after falling-out over German's Iraq stand.

November 22, 2002|Edwin Chen | Times Staff Writer

PRAGUE, Czech Republic -- The suspense is over.

President Bush and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder have made up.

Before sitting down to a swanky dinner for NATO leaders here Wednesday night, the men smiled, shook hands and briefly exchanged pleasantries.

"Germany is an important friend of the United States. And we've got a relationship to maintain, and we will maintain it," Bush the pragmatist explained Thursday morning.

The Bush-Schroeder falling-out stemmed from the chancellor's reelection campaign, during which he strongly opposed a war in Iraq. Bush was further angered when one of Schroeder's ministers was quoted as comparing the U.S. president's tactics to those of Adolf Hitler.

After Schroeder eked out a victory in the September election, Bush snubbed him by not placing the traditional congratulatory phone call to him. He also ignored a letter from Schroeder. The leaders finally had a short phone conversation Nov. 8.

But they didn't meet face to face until Wednesday night at Prague Castle.

"They shook hands last night," the president's national security advisor, Condoleezza Rice, reported Thursday.

"The president described it to everyone as a cordial discussion. And the work of U.S.-German relations goes on and will continue to go on. It's an important relationship," Rice said.

Still, Schroeder hasn't softened in his opposition to war in Iraq -- even though he signed on to a North Atlantic Treaty Organization leaders' statement Thursday calling on Baghdad to "fully and immediately" comply with the latest U.N. resolution and rid itself of suspected weapons of mass destruction.

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