German Social Democrats issue Berlin Wall warning

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German Social Democrats Monday warned potential allies in the left-wing Linke party they would be rejected as partners in regional coalition governments unless they condemn the building of the Berlin Wall.

The remarks by Andrea Nahles, the SPD's general secretary, came just two days after Germany marked the 50th anniversary of the day the Berlin Wall started to go up with a memorial service and a minute of silence in memory of those who died trying to flee to the West.

The commemoration was marred by a handful of Linke delegates at a party conference in Rostock, northern Germany, who refused to stand up in honour of the victims, and by the publication of a Linke newspaper article thanking the former East German communist regime for building the Wall.

A clear condemnation of the Wall is "an obligation the Linke owe not only to their possible coalition partners, but also to all the victims of the Wall and their relatives," Nahles told reporters.

Her warning comes just ahead of regional elections in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania on September 4, and in Berlin on September 18, when coalition governments led by the Social Democrats are expected to be returned to power.

In Berlin they govern in an alliance with the Linke.

The SPD had extracted a declaration from the PDS, a party made up of former East German communists which later merged with the Linke, condemning the 1961 building of the Wall which separated the Western and Eastern sectors of Berlin for 28 years.

Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit, a Social Democrat in charge of the regional government, Saturday described the Wall "as part of a dictatorial system, an unjust state."

"The Wall is now history, but it must not be forgotten," he warned, to applause from the crowd at the memorial ceremony.

At least 136 people died trying to cross the Berlin Wall to freedom in the West.

© 2011 AFP

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