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New Leader Reassures Germans

September 29, 1998

BONN, Germany (AP) _ Leaders of the Greens on Tuesday played down demands by the party’s radical pacifist and environmental wing ahead of coalition talks with the Social Democrats.

Moderate lawmaker Antje Vollmer said the party would make a mistake by fighting for unrealistic concessions when coalition talks open Friday. ``Let’s get serious now,″ she said.

Chancellor-elect Gerhard Schroeder already has made clear that the Social Democrats, as the dominant partner, would not tolerate radical causes supported by many Greens. In an interview with Der Spiegel news magazine, he warned the Greens ``not to be pushy with their demands.″

In media interviews, however, Greens lawmaker Christian Stroebele said he wanted the new government to halt work on a high-speed magnetic levitation train between Berlin and Hamburg. Parliamentarian Heide Ruehle has asserted the party should push for a commitment to scrap nuclear energy.

Party leaders fear such demands will hurt the Greens’ chances of entering a ruling government in Germany for the first time.

The Greens’ leading moderate and a possible candidate for foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, played down the party’s anti-military platform, which calls for scrapping NATO, saying the party would not make the nation an uncertain ally.

``We don’t want Germany to go down a separate path″ from its allies, he said late Monday on German television. ``It will be difficult to govern the country with rebellious policies. The point is to make successful policies as a party in government.″

Schroeder also has assured the world that Germany’s foreign policy will not change.

As a first sign of continuity, Schroeder planned Wednesday to visit Paris in a symbolic trip to the capital of Germany’s closest European partner. Chancellor Helmut Kohl made the same journey in 1982 after becoming chancellor.

Schroeder also plans trips to Washington to meet with President Clinton and to Moscow to meet with Russian President Boris Yeltsin in the coming weeks, a top aide, Karsten-Uwe Heye, said Tuesday.

The new government’s defense policies could first be tested on the issue of German involvement in possible NATO strikes in the Serb-ruled Yugoslav republic of Kosovo.

The outgoing Cabinet was to meet Wednesday to confirm Germany’s offer of 14 fighter planes that would participate in any air strikes. The offer requires no parliamentary action, but German participation in NATO strikes would require lawmakers’ approval.

That would fall to the outgoing parliament if the decision came before the new legislature was confirmed.

Germany’s constitution provides no deadline for forming a government, but the new parliament must convene by Oct. 27.

Sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the newly elected lawmakers likely will hold their first session on Oct. 20 or Oct. 21 so they can formally elect Schroeder as chancellor before a European Union summit on Oct. 24-25.

Meanwhile, leading Christian Democrats called for a sweeping renewal of the party Tuesday after outgoing Chancellor Helmut Kohl led it to its worst national election defeat in 50 years.

Lower Saxony Gov. Kurt Biedenkopf, a longtime Kohl critic inside the party, said the CDU must modernize itself and not continue working ``as if we were about to take over the government again tomorrow.″

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