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Schroeder bows out, with a few choice jabs

BERLIN -- Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said yesterday that he will not participate in Germany's new coalition government. He will thus end seven years in power marked by an assertive foreign policy and efforts to prune welfare benefits, among other parts of his legacy.

In a speech before a trade union conference in his hometown of Hanover, Schroeder also took a few jabs at President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, opponents in the debate over the Iraq war.

Schroeder's Social Democrats came in second in the elections last month to Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, and Merkel struck a power-sharing arrangement Monday to become Germany's first woman chancellor.

''I will not belong to the next government," Schroeder said in his televised speech.

He thanked union members for their support in his seven years of government, and he urged the leadership to push through economic changes while maintaining social welfare programs.

The chancellor gave no indication of what he planned to do, although he has said he would participate in upcoming coalition talks ''so that they turn out well."

Schroeder had battled with Merkel over the new government since the elections on Sept. 18 did not give either party a majority.

The chancellor took jabs at some of his rivals, including Blair, with whom he has clashed over the European Union.

''I say to my British friend that people in Germany, in Europe, don't want complete denationalization, they don't want the privatization of lifetime risks. They want a state that's . . . at their side," he said.

Schroeder also alluded to the Bush administration's response to Hurricane Katrina, which he described as an example of the necessity of a strong and effective state able to help people.

''I don't want to name any examples of catastrophes, where you can see what happens when there is no organized state. I could name countries, but the office I still hold forbids that -- but everybody knows I mean America," he said.

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