Reuters: Angela Merkel expressed strong support for Israel on Thursday, a sign postwar Germany’s ties with the country will stay close when she takes over as chancellor next week. By Louis Charbonneau
BERLIN, Nov 17 (Reuters) – Angela Merkel expressed strong support for Israel on Thursday, a sign postwar Germany’s ties with the country will stay close when she takes over as chancellor next week.
Six days before parliament is set to confirm her as leader of a new “grand coalition” of Germany’s two biggest parties, she digressed from an unrelated speech to condemn remarks last month by Iran’s president that Israel should be “wiped off the map”.
“If … in Iran the state of Israel’s right to exist is called into question, then we can show absolutely no tolerance of this,” she said in Berlin. “It must be castigated with all available means.”
Germany has been part of a European drive to persuade Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions, but Merkel’s comments signalled attitudes in Berlin may be hardening after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s comments.
Germany, burdened by guilt following the Nazi persecution and extermination of European Jews in World War Two, has been a strong supporter of Israel since its creation in 1948.
Merkel’s remarks on the eve of taking power will underline that she has no intention of departing from that tradition.
Her words echoed Washington’s condemnation of Ahmadinejad.
She has vowed to improve ties with the United States and work with Washington and other key European powers to help prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Relations soured due to outgoing Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s opposition to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
Ahmadinejad’s call for the annihilation of Israel, which was widely condemned by world leaders, has increased concerns about its nuclear ambitions, U.S. and European officials have said.
Germany, along with the European Union’s other two major powers France and Britain, has been trying for two years to persuade Iran to give up technology that could be used to make atomic weapons in exchange for economic and political incentives. Iran has so far rejected the EU offer.
Officials from the so-called “EU3” are considering whether to push to refer Tehran to the U.N. Security Council when the U.N. atomic agency’s governing board meets in Vienna next week. (Additional reporting by Nick Antonovics)