WASHINGTON -- German Finance Minister Theodor Waigel called on U.S. officials yesterday for a strict accounting of Persian Gulf war costs with an eye toward a partial rebate of Germany's share if the allied contributions prove to be more generous than necessary.
Mr. Waigel first raised the issue at a meeting here yesterday morning with Treasury Secretary Nicholas F. Brady and is expected to bring it up again today with President Bush and Secretary of State James A. Baker III.
Both U.S. and German officials say Germany will make good on its pledge to contribute $6.572 billion to the war effort, with a final payment of $1.68 billion expected this week.
But the finance minister, whose government is under fire at home from critics who say the United States stands to make a profit on the war, wants to make sure the German contribution is truly needed, embassy sources said.
Mr. Brady told Mr. Waigel during their 3 1/2 -hour meeting that the war would cost more than the $42.6 billion Congress has been asked to appropriate for it, but that he was not yet sure how the final total would compare to the $54.5 billion in contributions the allies have pledged, Mr. Waigel said.
Congressional Budget Office analysts agree with leaders of the opposition Social Democratic Party in Germany, who say the short duration of the war and unexpectedly low cost of equipment could mean the total price tag falls short of the allied pledges. About $28 billion of the money promised already has been received.
Much depends on what is included in the definition of war costs, including the continuing expense of maintaining forces in the region until a permanent cease-fire is signed. But the latest CBO estimates range between $40 billion and $50 billion.
The White House spokesman, Marlin Fitzwater, insisted last week that the United States would not make a profit on the war. If there is money left from the allied contributions, he said, it would be given back.
Mr. Waigel was expected to make the case to Mr. Bush that Germany, which was the fourth highest contributor, should be among the first in the line for a rebate because of the heavy burden it shoulders in aiding the Soviet Union and Poland. He will also note the high cost of reunification between East and West Germany, an embassy spokesman said.
Saudi Arabia and Kuwait were the heaviest donors to the allied cause, followed by Japan, which like Germany, sent no troops.
Japanese Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu said in Tokyo yesterday that his country's pledge of $10.7 billion would come in at $400 million less than expected because of a change in currency exchange rates that means the yen is no longer worth as much in dollars as it was at the time of Japan's pledge.