German defence minister Jung is urged to resign

1st November 2006, Comments 0 comments

1 November 2006, Berlin (dpa) - German Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung is under growing pressure to resign after a series of gaffes and blunders which have infuriated not merely the opposition but also reportedly Chancellor Angela Merkel. Media reports say Jung - a member of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) - has drawn the wrath of his boss for supplying a faulty report on Germany's naval contribution to United Nations forces in Lebanon. Merkel, quoting the defence ministry paper, publicly decla

1 November 2006

Berlin (dpa) - German Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung is under growing pressure to resign after a series of gaffes and blunders which have infuriated not merely the opposition but also reportedly Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Media reports say Jung - a member of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) - has drawn the wrath of his boss for supplying a faulty report on Germany's naval contribution to United Nations forces in Lebanon.

Merkel, quoting the defence ministry paper, publicly declared that German ships would be able to patrol inside of Lebanese territorial waters within six miles from the coast.

"We can cruise in the entire area," said the chancellor.

But in reality, Lebanon's government had demanded German ships stay outside the six-mile zone.

Merkel was reportedly livid after being corrected by German diplomats and military officials. There are now accusations that she misled Germany's parliament to win approval for the mission.

This debacle was followed by a series of other stumbles by Jung.

Without informing the chancellor, Jung announced at the weekend that Germany planned to pull out some of its 850 troops serving with European Union peacekeepers in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Making matters even worse, he said this was necessary because German armed forces were badly overstretched - am implicit criticism of his own government recently voiced by the opposition Greens.

Germany currently has about 10,000 troops on foreign missions in the Balkans, Lebanon and Afghanistan - out of 253,000 active soldiers.

Critics pounced on Jung's explanation and said cutting the 6,000- member EU force in Bosnia-Herzegovina could only be justified by the considerable political progress in the former Yugoslav territory which was torn by a bloody civil war from 1992 to 1995.

Jung's response to the publication of ugly photos showing German troops in Afghanistan posing with human skulls has also been criticized.

The defence minister seemed to brush aside any responsibility by stressing he had not been in office when the pictures were taken.

Defence Minister Jung has always been viewed as one of the weakest members in the German cabinet.

"From day one (Jung) has not been an especially happy appointment. He's shown himself to be badly informed and formulates policy in ways that can easily be misunderstood," commented the conservative newspaper Die Welt which generally backs Merkel's party.

Jung's selection one year ago surprised observers given that he had almost no experience in military affairs other than having done military service back in the 1960s.

Asked by DPA to provide copies of his writings on security issues after his nomination, Jung's office was only able to supply two brief ceremonial speeches, with no content, given at military bases in his election district.

The defence minister appears to have been given the post largely because the powerful CDU premier of Hesse state, Roland Koch, insisted he was the right man for the job.

"Jung's in danger," said Die Welt, adding: "It's not just the opposition - Merkel is furious with Jung and that puts the minister in serious danger."

The chancellor is known for being able to make cold-blooded decisions regarding the fate of top officials who fail to deliver.

Opposition Free Democratic Party (FDP) leaders predict Jung will either resign or be forced from office.

"I believe Jung will be gone by Christmas," said FDP defence expert Rainer Stinner.

Dirk Nibel, the FDP secretary general, appealed to Jung to take responsibility for his failings and quit.

Speculation is growing that the man who wanted to become defence minister - but was blocked by CDU powerbroker Koch - may now be in line to take the post.

Economics Minister Michael Glos had believed he was slated to head the defence ministry given his parliamentary work on military and terrorism issues.

His disappointment over getting the economics ministry has been palpable and Glos would likely jump at the chance to head Germany's armed forces.

DPA

Subject: German news

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