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3/3/04 - GERMAN CHANCELLOR VISITS U.S. - 2004-03-04

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder recently met with President George W. Bush at the White House. Both men affirmed that the foundation of German-American relations remains a shared commitment to democracy, the rule of law, and the economic opportunity provided by free and open markets.

And that commitment extends to Iraq and Afghanistan, says Mr. Schroeder:

“We both [the U.S. and Germany] have a great interest in seeing a stable and democratic Iraq develop. The important part that Germany is playing in Afghanistan -- it is a contribution that we make. It is a contribution that we also make in the fight against international terrorism, and we intend to continue to make that contribution.”

President Bush and Chancellor Schroeder pledged to step up efforts to bring security to Afghanistan by expanding NATO’s International Security Assistance Force. And it is hoped that the agreement reached in January on a new constitution for Afghanistan will set the stage for free and fair elections in June 2004.

Mr. Bush and Mr. Schroeder also reaffirmed their commitment to the vision of two states -- Israel and Palestine -- living side by side in peace and security. President Bush said there should be no doubt that people in Arab countries are capable of developing democratic governments:

“I believe that freedom is inherently a part of every soul, and that if given the proper structure and proper institutions, people can self-govern. And a self-governing Middle East, one based upon freedom and democracy, will make the world more peaceful. It’s a legacy that we need to work on in order to help change the habits of violence and fear and frustration that have spawned terror in the Middle East.”

The U.S. and Germany have had their differences in the past. But President Bush said, “We have both committed to put the differences behind us and move forward. Germany is an important nation. And it’s essential that America have good relations with Europe.”