BERLIN, March 23 (Reuters) - German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer criticised the United States on Sunday for starting a war framed by its national interests and said the same standards should apply for all nations regardless of their size or might.
"A world order will not work if the national interests of the most powerful nation define the criteria for the use of the military potency of this country," Fischer said in an interview with Der Spiegel news magazine.
"At the end of the day the same rules have to apply for the big, medium-sized and small countries," said Fischer, whose government has long opposed the U.S.-led military buildup in the Gulf and war against Iraq.
"The United States was always the strongest when it linked its might to the power of forming coalitions and international rules that were accepted by everyone."
Fischer also said he could not accept a vision, as he said was sketched out to him in late September 2001 by U.S. deputy defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz, in which the United States would use force to eliminate "terrorist governments" in a number of countries.
"I cannot and will not accept the idea we are on the verge of a series of disarmament wars," he said. "It's not acceptable that we are faced with the alternative: either to allow a terrible danger to exist or be forced into a disarmament war."
He said the United Nations should be the place to resolve conflicts.
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was the first Western leader to speak out against war in Iraq, saying last year Germany would not participate in any "military adventure" in Iraq, even though Berlin is one of the biggest contributors to the US-led "Enduring Freedom" anti-terror campaign with close to 9,000 troops in Afghanistan, Kuwait and the Horn of Africa.
"There is nothing cowardly if you pursue the aim of resolving conflicts peacefully," Fischer said. Addressing US criticism of Germany, he said being able to accept that an ally had a different view was "a sign of maturity in a democracy".
A similar position has been taken by the Swedish Social Democrats. Click here for prime minister Goran Persson's reaction to the outbreak of war and here for the official Swedish government statement.