US Secretary of State Colin Powell met German leaders yesterday seeking support for a UN resolution to end sanctions on Iraq with the offer of warmer bilateral relations in return.
Powell held talks with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer yesterday morning which were expected to start mending relations soured by disagreement over the US-led Iraq war as long as Germany supports the US on post-war Iraq.
The US is looking for support for a UN Security Council resolution that would lift blocks on Iraqi oil exports and Powell made it clear he hoped for backing from Germany, one of the non-permanent members on the council.
"We are friends and allies. The last several months have been very very difficult. We had a basic disagreement," Powell said in an interview on German public television. But the two countries now needed to move on, he said.
"One way to get started is to begin cooperating with each other now on such issues as the UN resolution," Powell said.
"I hope Germany will find it possible to support the resolution and let's see if we can get agreement very quickly," Powell said.
The US wants the resolution because it would allow it and its allies to start exporting and selling Iraqi oil.
But the proposal -- backed by Britain and Spain -- has run into opposition from France and Russia, partly because it gives the US the right to sell Iraqi oil with minimal international supervision.
Powell is the most senior US official to visit Berlin since last September's German elections, when Schroeder's vocal opposition to US plans for a war in Iraq led to a severe diplomatic chill between the two countries.
Powell's tour has already taken him to Russia and to Bulgaria, a country that supported the US-led war, after visits to the Middle East and Saudi Arabia earlier in the week.
Powell failed on Wednesday to win Russian support for proposals to end UN sanctions against Iraq. One sticking point is the Moscow government's demand that UN inspectors return to Iraq to search for weapons of mass destruction.
A revised draft for a resolution submitted on Thursday slightly enhances the UN role, proposes ways to resolve Iraq's massive foreign debt but leaves basic US demands unchanged.
"We have received a number of comments on the first draft of the resolution. We have incorporated many of the comments we have received and we have put down a new text yesterday afternoon in New York," Powell said.
"We believe the United Nations must play a vital role. There is probably still continuing discussion as to how large a role it should play," Powell said, adding he did not believe that it was necessary to bring UN weapons inspectors back to Iraq.
Germany has planned top security for Powell's visit, which comes shortly after suicide bombing attacks on expatriate compounds in the Saudi capital Riyadh killed 34 people, including seven Americans.