German foreign minister faces Libya backlash

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Guido Westerwelle, Germany's most unpopular foreign minister since the war, Monday faced a roasting from the press for saying German sanctions were key in winning victory for the Libyan uprising.

He was later made to eat his words and publicly acknowledge that it was "the Libyans, with the help of the international military intervention, who toppled (Moamer) Kadhafi's regime".

"What our partners have achieved in implementing UN Security Council resolution 1973 is worthy of respect," he said on Sunday.

Westerwelle played a leading role in Germany's decision in March to side with Russia and China and abstain on the UN vote which authorised NATO partners to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya to protect civilians there.

The minister, who in April relinquished his job as leader of the Free Democrats (FDP), the smallest party in the coalition government, now faces renewed questions over his future.

"A minister on probation," ran Monday's headline in the conservative die Welt newspaper.

"Who will go first?" asked the left-wing Tageszeitung with front-page pictures depicting, side by side, Westerwelle and Kadhafi.

By finally acknowledging NATO's leading role, Westerwelle "has probably won himself some time at the foreign ministry," said the Leipziger Zeitung.

"But his political end, according to leading figures in his party, is near," it added.

The Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper said Economy Minister Philipp Roesler, who took over from Westerwelle as FDP leader and vice-chancellor, had suggested that deputy foreign minister Werner Hoyer take over from Westerwelle.

FDP leaders and the foreign ministry later denied any such plans were afoot.

© 2011 AFP

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