Bush heads for Germany for three-day visit with Merkel
12 July 2006, ROSTOCK, GERMANY - US President George W Bush headed for Germany on Wednesday on a trip designed to underscore the improving relationship with Chancellor Angela Merkel and give him a glimpse into the communist past of the region he will be visiting.
12 July 2006
ROSTOCK, GERMANY - US President George W Bush headed for Germany on Wednesday on a trip designed to underscore the improving relationship with Chancellor Angela Merkel and give him a glimpse into the communist past of the region he will be visiting.
The president will spend three days in the northern state of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, ahead of flying on to Russia for a meeting of the Group of Eight leading industrial nations in St Petersburg.
Merkel has her electoral district in the state, which was formerly part of communist East Germany where the chancellor grew up and where she launched her political rise to power shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall nearly 17 years ago.
German officials say Bush is fascinated by Merkel's life story. A pastor's daughter, 51-year-old Merkel trained as a physicist before she gradually rose through the ranks of Germany's conservative Christian Democrats to become the nation's first woman leader last year.
On the political front, their discussions are likely to be dominated by the growing sense of crisis over Iran's nuclear programme, with efforts to persuade Tehran to agree to a plan for political and economic incentives in exchange for giving up uranium enrichment appearing to be getting nowhere.
Other issues include the fresh outbreak of violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Iraq and global concerns about energy supplies, which are also likely to be high on the agenda at the three-day G8 meeting starting Saturday.
The visit follows what were described as "disappointing" talks held in Brussels on Tuesday between EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani.
But intermingled with the key international issues, Merkel is also likely to take Bush through what life was like in a former communist state.
Government sources in Berlin said the chancellor wanted to show the president the progress made in the east after the restoration of democracy, following nearly half a century of communist rule.
They also say that the White House believes her background in East Germany gives Merkel good insights into current political developments in Russia.
Bush and his wife, Laura, are expected to touch down in Air Force One at 9:45 p.m. (1945 GMT) in Rostock and then fly by helicopter to the Baltic Sea resort of Heiligendamm where they will spend two nights.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was due to arrive in Germany about an hour before the president.
On Thursday, Bush is to hold talks with the chancellor and tour the medieval town of Stralsund before attending an evening barbeque at the site of a defunct collective farm in Trinwillershagen.
Strict security will be in force for the visit, with more than 12,000 police on duty and 2,200 drain covers sealed in Stralsund where the president is due to meet 1,000 hand-picked residents in the market square - nearly a quarter of them cadets from the nearby navy technical academy.
It will be the third face-to-face meeting between the two leaders, who are known to hit it off and talk regularly over the phone about important political issues.
The Merkel-led government's ties with Washington are in stark contrast to the tensions unleashed during the former Social-Democrat- led coalition of Gerhard Schroeder, when its opposition to the war in Iraq plunged Berlin's relations with the White House to a post-World War II low.
However, political opponents have accused Merkel of using the visit to try to score political points ahead of the Mecklenburg-West Pomerania state elections in September when her Christian Democrats hope to wrest power from the present left-of-centre coalition.
Some left-wing members of the state government have announced they will address a series of rallies being held to protest the policies of the US administration, particularly in relation to Iraq.
Subject: German news