Opposition in Germany to force investigation into Iraq war spy operation

German opposition parties agreed Friday to force a parliamentary investigation into what help their country's spies provided to U.S. forces during the Iraq war.

Lawmakers from the three parties, who have enough votes in parliament to force the investigation, told reporters in Berlin that they had agreed the scope of the probe.

It was not immediately clear when parliament would vote on the proposal. Lawmakers have said a panel, which could call top officials including former ministers to testify under oath, might begin the investigation before the end of March.

Under pressure from media reports and opposition politicians, the government has acknowledged that two German intelligence agents were deployed in Baghdad during the 2003 war.

Officials have confirmed that German intelligence passed information gathered by the two spies, including on the position of Iraqi security forces, to U.S. authorities, despite then-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's outspoken opposition to the war.

The current government, made up of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and Schroeder's Social Democrats, insist the German spies helped ensure that locations such as hospitals and embassies were not mistakenly bombed.

But opposition lawmakers say they are not convinced that U.S. military planners could not have used the information to identify targets for air raids.

The government also has denied a report in the New York Times that German agents procured a copy of Saddam Hussein's defense plans for Baghdad and passed it to U.S. intelligence.

Schroeder ruled out any "active" German involvement in the war, souring relations with Washington. However, he insisted that Germany was a reliable partner in the U.S.-led war against international terrorism.

On Friday, negotiators for the opposition Free Democrats, Greens and Left Party said they also agreed to investigate the use of German airspace and airports by CIA aircraft, the alleged abduction of a German citizen who says he was tortured in Afghanistan and the questioning of terror suspects in foreign jails by German security officials.

The probe will be "comprehensive but not excessive," Left Party lawmaker Petra Pau said.

The government has argued in vain for discussion of intelligence matters be restricted to a secretive parliamentary panel and warns that a parliamentary probe could make other countries less willing to cooperate with Germany to combat terrorism, reports the AP.

D.M.

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Author`s name: Editorial Team