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Plans raise job jitters in Germany

BERLIN -- German officials expressed concern yesterday that their country has the most to lose with President Bush's announcement that tens of thousands of troops will return to the United States over the next decade.

With about 70,000 US soldiers based in Germany, thousands of local jobs, from bakers to maintenance workers and office personnel, depend on the Americans, who first came as occupying forces after World War II.

European and Asian countries with US troops have braced for the changes for several years, but Bush's announcement yesterday that as many as 70,000 uniformed personnel and 100,000 dependents will gradually be moved back to the United States brought home the full impact.

''Base closures would hit us very hard," said city spokesman Ole Kruse in the Bavarian city of Wrzburg, home of the US Army's First Infantry Division. That unit and the First Armored Division, based in Wiesbaden near Frankfurt, will return to the United States as part of the restructuring, Pentagon officials said yesterday.

They will be replaced by a brigade, a much smaller unit equipped with Stryker light armored vehicles, though they probably won't start leaving until 2006 at the earliest, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

For Baumholder, a town in western Germany with a US military training area, the changes spell problems.

About 11,500 residents are matched by a US military community of the same size, and the local economy would lose $150 million a year if the Americans left, Mayor Volkmar Pees said.

In host countries, such as Germany and Japan, local governments have paid much of the cost of stationing US troops. German officials have traveled to Washington in recent months to lobby against troop withdrawals and propose alternatives.

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