Merkel regrets German President's resignation

09:49, June 01, 2010      

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday she deeply regrets German President Horst Koehler's resignation announced earlier in the day, a surprise move that adds up to problems faced by Merkel's centre-right ruling coalition at a time of financial crisis.

Merkel told a press conference in Berlin that Koehler called her Monday morning to inform her of his decision and she had tried in vain to dissuade him from resigning.

"I deeply regret his resignation but I must say that I have to respect his decision," Merkel said, adding she and Koehler have worked together very well and Koehler, with his rich international experience, is an important adviser at times of economic and financial crisis.

Merkel has also called off a planned visit Monday to the German World Cup team's training camp in Italy.

Koehler announced his resignation earlier on Monday after a week of criticism over a radio interview which allegedly linked military deployments abroad with the country's economic interests.

He was quoted as saying in the interview with Germany's Deutschlandradio on May 22 that a country like Germany with a heavy reliance on foreign trade "must also understand that in certain cases, in an emergency, military operations are necessary to protect our interests." He cited as examples maintaining free trade routes and preventing regional instability that could have a negative impact on Germany's trade, jobs and income.

German opposition politicians have called on Koehler to take back the comments and accused him of damaging public acceptance of German military deployment abroad.

"I regret that my comments on an important and difficult question for our nation were able to lead to misunderstandings," Koehler said Monday when announcing his resignation.

But he also expressed anger at some critics which suggested he supported "German military missions that are not covered by the constitution."

"This criticism devoids of any justification. It also is lacking in the necessary respect for the presidential office," he said.

German opposition leaders also expressed regret over Koehler's resignation but indicated that his stepdown may be partially traced back to lack of support by Merkel's centre-right ruling coalition.

"Horst Koehler has apparently the impression in recent weeks that he has too little support in the CDU / CSU-FDP coalition," said Sigmar Gabriel, leader of Germany's main opposition, the Social Democrats.

Koehler, a member of Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), has held the largely ceremonial post of head of state since July 2004 after reelection last year.

His surprise resignation comes at a time when Merkel's government is already facing sinking popularity for failing to act quickly enough to control a euro zone debt crisis and constant internal disputes within the ruling coalition of Merkel's conservatives and the junior partners, the Free Democrats (FDP).

It is also the first time in Germany's postwar history that a federal president has resigned.

Source: Xinhua


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