Merkel sends Obama warnings on Afghan, Iran
Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Barack Obama becoming US president did not mean Germany will send more troops to Afghanistan, and was doubtful whether talking to Iran would bear fruit.india Updated: Jan 21, 2009 07:07 IST
Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday that Barack Obama becoming US president did not mean Germany will send more troops to Afghanistan, and was doubtful whether talking to Iran would bear fruit.
Wishing Obama "the best of luck" ahead of his inauguration on Tuesday, Merkel told public television that Germany "will live up to its responsibilities in Afghanistan," where it has around 3,300 troops mostly in the relatively the calmer north.
But she added: "We took our decisions based on our capabilities, our skills, not on who is president ... We are willing to discuss how we could possibly move forward more decisively on the political level, but nothing will change immediately for Germany because we have already really taken on responsibilities."
Germany decided last year to increase to 4,500 the number of troops it has in Afghanistan where they form part of NATO's 50,000-strong International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
Obama has singled out Afghanistan as his main front in the war on terrorism and plans to deploy 30,000 more US troops there over the next 18 months, but he is likely to draw a blank if he presses Germany either to send more soldiers or to deploy those already present to the more volatile south.
Obama will "with high probability" make his first visit to Germany as president at a NATO summit in the German town of Baden-Baden on April 3, Merkel said. He was greeted by a cheering crowd of 200,000 people when he came to Berlin in July during the campaign.
The Financial Times published a poll on Tuesday suggesting the majority of Europeans were against sending more troops to Afghanistan, with 60 percent of Germans saying opposed such a move -- under any circumstances.
The mission is already highly unpopular with German voters, and Merkel will not want images of German body bags returning from Afghanistan to hurt her chances of winning a second term in elections in September.
Merkel said that while it could "make sense" for Obama to seek diplomatic engagement with Iran and Syria, as he has promised, she was sceptical on his chances of success.
"On the European Union side we have held talks with Iran on multiple occasions, but unfortunately very unsuccessfully over a long period of time," Merkel said.
"I think it will remain clear that so long as Iran keeps its nuclear programme so opaque, and as long as it wants to destroy Israel, there will of course be points when we will say that on this basis we cannot come together."
But she added: "I believe in any case that we should try it."