Comments from the German defense minister Peter Struck to the Financial Times add credibility to John Kerry's claims that if he's elected, he'd draw in more international support on Iraq -- including, possibly, German troops. From the F.T.:
"Mr Struck departed from his government's resolve not to send troops to Iraq under any circumstances, saying: 'At present I rule out the deployment of German troops in Iraq. In general, however, there is no one who can predict developments in Iraq in such a way that he could make such a binding statement [about the future].'"
"Mr Struck also welcomed Mr Kerry's proposal that he would convene an international conference on Iraq including countries that opposed the war if he were to win next month's election. Germany would certainly attend, Mr Struck said. 'This is a very sensible proposal. The situation in Iraq can only be cleared up when all those involved sit together at one table. Germany has taken on responsibilities in Iraq, including financial ones; this would naturally justify our involvement in such a conference.'"
"Berlin has refused to comment on the outcome of the US election, but Mr Struck's comments are significant as Mr Kerry has argued that he would be able to draw in countries to work in Iraq that opposed the war. Gerhard Schrvder, the German chancellor, was a leading opponent of the US-led Iraq war and his re-election in 2002 was secured in part on support for this stance."
[Update 8:25 a.m. PDT: Interesting development on this story. Soon after we posted this, we got an e-mail from a Spiegel staffer alerting us to comments Schröder made today that essentially "stuck the fork in," as the staffer put it, Struck's comments. This comes from a Spiegel reporter:
"German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder took pains Wednesday to correct a statement made by his defense minister, who implied Germany may be backpedaling on its Iraq position. Peter Struck told Britain's Financial Times that sending troops to Iraq was impossible 'at present,' but that 'there is no one who can predict developments in Iraq in such a way to make a binding statement.' But that's exactly what Schroder gave to his cabinet on Wednesday: 'No one in the federal government, including the defense minister, is considering a change to the Iraq position.' To avoid in similar semantic mishaps, Schroder told his cabinet the policy, 'endures today ... and will in the future.' Later, Schrvder spokesman Thomas Steg told reporters in Berlin: 'There won't be any soldiers in Iraq.'"
"Also, Struck added some qualifiers to his comments at a NATO meeting in Rumania today, saying he 'rules out the possibility' of troops right now. In years, once things have changed in Iraq, 'Germany could reconsider his position,' he said."]