June 27, 2005

Schroeder asks Bush to consider Germany for UN seat

By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - German Chancellor Gerhard Schroederasked President Bush on Monday to support Germany's bid for apermanent seat at the U.N. Security Council in a visitovershadowed by Schroeder's uphill battle for re-election.

In what could be Schroeder's last visit to the White Houseas chancellor, the two leaders also urged Iran's newly electedhard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to forswear anyambitions to develop a nuclear weapon and vowed to keep up thepressure.

But they appeared to differ on whether the Iranian electionwas free and fair.

"It's never free and fair when a group of people, unelectedpeople, get to decide who's on the ballot," Bush said.

Schroeder, speaking to reporters after having lunch withBush, avoided any criticism of the election process and said:"We have taken notice that the Iranian people have elected anew president, which must be respected."

Schroeder told Bush during a picture-taking session in theOval Office that based on Germany's work in Afghanistan andtraining Iraqi troops and other international work "we wouldvery much hope that at some point in time we could also have aright to representation on the Security Council if there werethe space."

Germany is one of four countries -- alongside Brazil, Indiaand Japan -- that have submitted a resolution to increase theU.N. Security Council to 25 members from the current 15.

But the United States, which openly supports a seat forJapan, has said it would prefer to add only two "or so"permanent members and two or three nonpermanent ones.

Bush, angered when Germany joined other countries infoiling his bid for a Security Council resolution authorizingwar in Iraq, was polite but noncommittal to Schroeder'srequest.

"We oppose no country's bid for the Security Council," hesaid, a statement Schroeder welcomed.

With Europe's largest economy in the doldrums andunemployment on the rise, many observers believe Schroeder willbe ousted by the leader of Germany's Christian Democrats,Angela Merkel, in parliamentary elections expected inmid-September.

Bush was annoyed at Schroeder in much of his own first termdue to Schroeder's opposition to the Iraq war. Schroeder ranfor re-election in 2002 campaigning against the U.S. policy inIraq, but the two men have largely moved beyond thatdisagreement.

Asked about Schroeder's candidacy, Bush hailed him as a "aseasoned political campaigner."

"As we say in Texas this won't be his first rodeo," Bushsaid to laughter.

Schroeder said the elections have not been set for certainbut seemed to suggest the outcome was not a forgone conclusion.

"When it comes to elections, I think there's this wonderfulsaying from back home in Lower Saxony where I come from, whichsays, 'Ducks are fat at the bottom end,"' he said.

On Iran, Bush said the United States and three Europeancountries negotiating with Tehran were sending a message toIran's new leader that says "the development of a nuclearweapon is unacceptable and a process which would enable Iran todevelop a nuclear weapon is unacceptable."

Schroeder said all parties involved would continue to be"tough and firm" while noting that Ahmadinejad wants the talksto continue.

(Additional reporting by Markus Krah Tabassum Zakaria andAdam Entous)