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US will 'work round' German leader

Ms Rice said the Bush administration was trying to patch up strained relations with Germany, but would continue to marginalise Mr Schröder, according to the conservative German magazine Focus.

"We're now doing everything we can to improve relations with Germany at all levels," she reportedly told a German visitor to Washington. "But we're going to work around the chancellor. It's better to leave him out.

She was also quoted as saying that Mr Bush was aware of the German foreign minister Joschka Fischer's past as a street-fighter-turned-politician, and does not believe he is suited to be a statesman.

The conservative Munich-based magazine did not further identify the German visitor. But two German political leaders recently visited the White House: the economy minister, Wolfgang Clement, travelling with a group of German business leaders, and the premier of Hesse state, Roland Koch, both met administration officials.

The White House's approach to Germany reflects a desire by the administration to settle scores with countries that actively opposed its war on Iraq. Ms Rice has been widely quoted telling associates that US policy should be: "Punish France, ignore Germany and forgive Russia."

Mr Schröder angered Mr Bush during the chancellor's re-election campaign last year when he described the proposed attack on Iraq as a "military adventure". Mr Bush has reportedly not talked to him for about six months.

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