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Germany, US Relations Warmer
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Relations between Germany and the United States are definitely warmer now as it is discerned through German Chancellor Angela Merkel's debut visit to the United States, although differences between the two countries remain.

"My first impressions in 45 minutes alone (with her) in the Oval Office were incredibly positive," US President George W. Bush said at a press conference with Merkel following their talks in the White House on Friday.

"I am convinced that we will have a really important and good relationship," Bush said, adding that Germany has been "a valued ally" of the United States.

For her part, Merkel said she was pleased that a new chapter in the Germany-US relationship will be opened up. "I think that will open up also a new chapter, as I hope, in the relationship," she said.
What is more important, the two leaders reached important consensus in regard to Iran's nuclear issue as both called for Iran to be referred to the United Nations Security Council for possible sanctions.

"Our job is to make it clear to all parties that it is in the world's interest that Iran not have a nuclear weapon," Bush said.

Bush was echoed by Merkel who said that Iran's recent behavior was "unacceptable."

Merkel's coalition government concluded on Thursday that negotiations with Iran by Germany, France and Britain were at a dead end and their effort to stop Iran from making nuclear weapons would go to the United Nations Security Council.

Moreover, Merkel has also pledged to strengthen cooperation with the United States in Afghanistan, the Balkans and the Middle East.

Nonetheless, differences remain as both acknowledged that they had "a very open and candid" discussion.

Relations between Germany and the United States deteriorated as former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was strongly against the US-launched Iraq war. Merkel showed that Iraq will continue to be a difficult issue between the two countries.

"But everyone knows there are not going to be German troops in Iraq, that this is going to be a sensitive issue in the relationship," Merkel said.

Bush admitted disagreements with Merkel on Iraq. "It has been a difficult issue in our relationship and I fully understand that," he said.

In addition, Bush also rejected Merkel's call to shut up the Guantanamo military detention camp in Cuba.

"So long as there is a threat and the war on terror goes on, we will inevitably need to hold people that would do ourselves harm in a system in which people would be treated humanely, and ultimately there is going to be an end, which is a legal system," Bush said.

All these show that with the stepping down of President Bush's war critic Schroeder, as both the United States and Germany have the same values and need each other in international affairs, the United States and Germany under Merkel's leadership are expected to maintain warm relations in the years to come, although their differences will remain.

(Xinhua News Agency January 14, 2006)

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