French and German say NO

French and German government officials say they will not significantly increase military assistance in Iraq even if John Kerry, the Democratic presidential challenger, is elected on November 2. Mr Kerry, who has attacked President George W. Bush for failing to broaden the US-led alliance in Iraq, has pledged to improve relations with European allies and increase international military assistance in Iraq.

"I cannot imagine that there will be any change in our decision not to send troops, whoever becomes president," Gert Weisskirchen, member of parliament and foreign policy expert for Germany's ruling Social Democratic Party, said in an interview. Michel Barnier, the French foreign minister, said last week that France, which has tense relations with interim prime minister Iyad Allawi, had no plans to send troops "either now or later".

A French government official said: "People don't expect that much would change under a Kerry administration, even if things can only get better. We do not anticipate a sudden honeymoon in the event Kerry replaces Bush. A German government spokesman declined to comment on the outcome of the US presidential election. But the feeling in Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's office is that, if anything, Berlin is growing less rather than more likely to change its mind as security conditions deteriorate in Iraq.

Mr. Kerry is expected to make Mr. Bush's record of alienating foreign capitals and undermining US credibility in the world one of the chief arguments on Thursday night when he confronts the president in the first presidential debate. The German government continues to oppose sending troops to Iraq under any circumstance. Berlin was one of Europe's most vocal opponents of the invasion of Iraq and, with sizeable forces in the Balkan and Afghanistan, it has also argued its troops are overstretched. Although the government did not oppose Nato's decision to start training inside Iraq, it still thinks the deployment is counter- productive.


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