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30 November 2005
BERLIN - Germany will not be intimidated and is not open to terrorist "blackmail", Chancellor Angela Merkel said in delivering her new government's statement of policy to the German parliament in Berlin Wednesday.
A crisis over the abduction of a German aid worker by terrorists in Iraq overshadowed the first major speech by the new chancellor, the first woman to head a German government.
"We are not open to blackmail," Merkel said to applause from across the Bundestag.
"We cannot relent in the fight against international terrorism. It targets that which is important to us and forms the core of our civilization," she said.
"It targets our entire value system. It targets freedom, tolerance and respect for human dignity, democracy and the rule of law. If we were to surrender these values we would surrender ourselves," Merkel told the Bundestag in her first major speech.
No new details regarding efforts to free aid worker and archaeologist Susanne Osthoff were made public Wednesday by the crisis team working to secure the release of her and her driver.
Osthoff, a 43-year-old archaeologist by training who had worked in Iraq for years and has long been active in the aid sector, was abducted along with her driver on Friday or Saturday.
Kai Hirschmann of the Institute for Research into Terrorism in Essen drew a link between the installation of Merkel's broadly-based government in Berlin and the abduction.
He said the terrorists, whom he linked to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the self-styled head of al-Qaeda in Iraq, wanted to send a message to the new German government not to cooperate with the United States or with the government in Baghdad.
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Germany was relying on U.S. authorities for intelligence and knowledge of the area, following a meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Washington Tuesday.
"The German government is not open to extortion," Steinmeier told journalists in Washington.
The abduction has provoked anger and shock in Germany, which has not been involved in military operations in Iraq at any stage since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.
German police are, however, training Iraqi officers in the United Arab Emirates, and German companies are working on reconstruction projects in Iraq.
Profiles of Osthoff reveal an idealist who fell in love with the history of Iraq and with its people.
She was married to a man reported to be of Jordanian origin, by whom she has an 11-year-old daughter. She speaks fluent Arabic and has converted to Islam. In recent years she has devoted herself to deliveries of aid, particularly medical supplies.
Subject: German news
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