Germany's foreign policy more independent under Schroeder - Putin

MOSCOW — Germany's foreign policy has become more independent since Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder took office, Russian President Vladimir Putin told a leading German TV network Wednesday.

In an interview with ZDF television, Putin said that under Schroeder Germany had consolidated the sovereignty of its foreign policy. "Schroeder has distinguished himself as a reliable partner sincerely seeking to develop bilateral relations - something that could not have passed unnoticed by the Russian public," he said.

In the interview, whose transcripts are posted on the presidential Web site, Putin also recalled that Chancellor Schroeder was among the leaders invited to the 60th VE anniversary celebrations in May this year, as were - for the first time in the history of Russia-Germany relations - German WWII veterans who had taken part in combat operations on the eastern front. Putin called this a qualitatively new step toward Russian-German reconciliation, attesting to a high degree of trust between the two nations, which he said had been achieved thanks to the incumbent chancellor.

The Russian president described Schroeder as a "responsible politician...a man of integrity, consistent in his actions - qualities that always form a good base for cooperation."

"I believe that to a certain extent, Schroeder is today translating into reality the fundamental ideas of German political thought, including in practical matters, for instance, with regard to the Iraqi problem," Putin said. "This is why our nations have bonded together in a positive way, too. So, whatever political transformation may occur in Germany, I am very hopeful the positive impetus in the development of Russian-German relations that has been brought about by the incumbent federal chancellor will be preserved in the future."