May 06, 2003
Envoy dubs US a police state
From Roger Boyes in Berlin
THE strained relations between Germany and the United States took a turn for the worse yesterday after a senior Berlin diplomat was reported to have told Foreign Ministry colleagues that America was turning into a "police state".
The comments of Jürgen Chrobog, the State Secretary, reported in the German Focus magazine, threatened to disrupt intense diplomatic efforts to repair the relationship between Gerhard Schröder, the Chancellor, and President Bush.
Herr Chrobog is said to have given a blistering critique of the US-German relationship during the annual meeting of German ambassadors, complaining that America was "restricting more and more its civic liberties at home".
The German Government said that Herr Chrobog's comments had been misrepresented, but at least one participant was struck by the "distanced, even sceptical tone he used when talking about the US Administration".
The US Embassy, sensing another brewing scandal, was unhappy. "If true, someone's made a big mistake," a diplomat said.
The flare-up has come at a low point in relations between the two countries. Yesterday Peter Struck, the German Defence Minister, began talks in Washington with Donald Rumsfeld, his opposite number, in an attempt to mend fences.
However, Herr Struck told reporters before the meeting that he had no intention of begging for forgiveness for Germany's stance against the US-led war in Iraq. "It's not for a German Defence Minister to show regret or guilt feelings towards his American counterpart. We have an equal relationship," he said.
Huge diplomatic efforts are being made to get Mr Bush and Herr Schröder talking again. There have been only two telephone conversations between the leaders since the Chancellor won the German election last September and only a few sparse words have been exchanged at summits. Tony Blair is said to have raised the issue with Mr Bush during his recent visit to Belfast.