German agents played no role in selecting Iraq bombing targets says FM




 
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January 21st, 2006  
Team Infidel
 
 

Topic: German agents played no role in selecting Iraq bombing targets says FM


BERLIN, Jan 20, 2006 (AFP) - A defiant German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told parliament on Friday that German agents based in Baghdad had not helped to choose targets for bombing in the 2003 Iraq war.
Steinmeier described media allegations that Berlin shared military secrets with Washington during the Iraq war as "scandal-mongering".
The reports, citing unnamed sources, allege that German agents passed on key information to US intelligence, including a report which led to an attack on a restaurant where then Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was believed to have been dining.
Fourteen civilians were killed in the bombing of the site.
Germany was an outspoken critic of the US-led war on Iraq and steadfastly refused to contribute troops to the invasion.
Steinmeier said the two agents from the BND foreign intelligence service had given "no support for the pursuit of war".
The foreign minister said he had cut short a tour of the Middle East in order to take part in the parliamentary debate and defend the agents' role.
Nothing they had done had been in contravention of the government's opposition to the war, he told the Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament.
The government has said the BND agents passed on information to prevent the bombing of civilian targets and save lives.
Steinmeier, who served as chief of staff to former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and coordinated the secret services at the time of the war, is seen as a central figure in the case.
The opposition has called for a parliamentary inquiry into the role of the agents.
Questioned in a closed-doors session of a parliamentary supervisory commission this week, the agents said they had played no role in selecting the targets for bombing, including the attack on the restaurant, and had no direct contact with US officials.
The chairman of that commission, Norbert Roettgen, told parliament that he was satisfied that the agents were telling the truth.
"The BND agents who were at the scene were in no way involved in either the preparation, the planning or the execution of the bombing of the restaurant on April 7, 2003," Roettgen said.
The opposition Greens, junior partners in Schroeder's government, which was in power at the time of the war, have accused the liberal Free Democrats and the Left Party of attempting to use the probe as a political weapon to cast doubt on the former administration's popular anti-war stance.
"We are prepared to get to the bottom of the matter, which is what the other opposition parties want too," said Greens deputy Volker Beck.
"But we are not interested in creating political hot air."
Meanwhile former foreign minister Joschka Fischer of the Greens, who was in parliament on Friday to watch the debate, said this week he supported the deployment of the agents to Iraq but that the government had been careful not to violate its own principles.
"To my knowledge, we never crossed the red line, the political-moral line, which we drew for ourselves," he said.