schroeder says germany will not vote for iraq war

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    Tuesday January 21

    BERLIN (Reuters) - Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder says Germany will not support a U.N. resolution in favour of war against Iraq, his clearest signal yet of how Germany will act in any Security Council vote on military action.

    "Do not expect that Germany will agree to a resolution that legitimises war," Schroeder told a state election rally in the western town of Goslar on Tuesday.

    Schroeder has maintained the popular anti-war line that helped him win re-election last September, although he has softened the rhetoric which strained ties with the United States.

    But until recently, neither Schroeder nor his ministers had said how Germany might vote in the event of a motion for war in the U.N. Security Council, where Germany took one of the two-year rotating seats at the start of the month.

    However, Schroeder, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and Defence Minister Peter Struck have all now appeared to rule out a vote in favour of war, while leaving open the possibility that Germany might abstain.

    On Monday, Fischer told a meeting of the Security Council on terrorism in New York Germany was concerned that war against Iraq would damage the global fight against violent extremists.

    Struck ignited speculation that Germany had made its mind up when he said on Friday a Yes vote was no longer conceivable. A government spokesman later said that was Struck's personal opinion.

    Germany chairs the Security Council in February.

    In November, the Security Council passed Resolution 1441, warning Iraq it faced serious consequences if it did not comply with the measure aimed at ridding Baghdad of its alleged weapons of mass destruction. Iraq denies possessing such weapons.

    Some countries say a second U.N. resolution would be needed to authorise war if Iraq was found to be in material breach of resolution 1441. The United States disagrees, and on Tuesday U.S. President George W. Bush said time was running out for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
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