Germany's ex-chancellor wants to see Hilary Clinton as U.S. president

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, a fierce critic of the Bush administration, said Saturday that he's pulling for Democrat U.S. Senator Hilary Clinton for the American presidency. Schroeder also called on governments to open talks with radical Palestinian party Hamas, which won recent vote in occupied Palestinian territories.

"I'd be very pleased if Hilary Clinton would become the next American president," Schroeder said to applause from a largely Saudi audience at the Jeddah Economic Forum, which opened here Saturday. "But don't quote me too loud. I hope I'm not harming her by saying that." Schroeder made the statement during a discussion of global women leaders at a gender-segregated theater where a plastic barrier separated women from men.

Schroeder cracked jokes about the recent German election that saw his job snatched by conservative rival Angela Merkel, Germany's first woman chancellor.

"The lady kicked me out of my office," Schroeder lamented. Schroeder thanked speakers for referring to him as a "heavyweight" speaker among the conference's discussion panels.

"But a heavyweight can also lose," Schroeder reminded his audience, to laughter and applause. "Such is democracy." On issues closer at hand, Schroeder called for other governments to follow Russia's overtures to the victorious party, which is listed by the U.S. government as a terrorist group. He said Hamas needs to renounce violence.

"The results of democratic elections must be accepted," he said. "But with victory comes responsibility. It goes without saying that any party that has to negotiate peace, that you need to renounce violence." Audience members reprimanded Schroeder for speaking too diplomatically on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. One man told Schroeder that chief point of friction causing the so-called "clash of civilizations" between the West and the Muslim world was Israel's repression of the Palestinians.

Schroeder said the road map peace plan was the proper way forward, but said it would go nowhere without more serious backing from Washington. "No one else has the clout to nudge an international agreement," he said.

Schroeder also said Europeans responded too slowly and weakly to condemn the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that appeared first in a Danish newspaper. European papers that reprinted the cartoons were engaging in "one-upmanship" that spurred violent protests in the Muslim world, he said.

"It would have been good if we had said more against this in Europe, particularly in Denmark," he said. "We need the full respect of religious beliefs, but also of diplomatic missions and the people who work there", reports the AP.


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