German party fires Wikileaks mole: spokesman

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One of Germany's governing parties said Thursday that it had fired a high-ranking official for feeding secret information to the US embassy, as revealed this week by WikiLeaks.

Helmut Metzner, chief of staff for the head of the Free Democrats (FDP), Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, was exposed as the source of leaks from talks in October 2009 on forming a ruling coalition.

"The staff member of the FDP's federal headquarters, who has admitted his contacts with the US embassy in Berlin, has been relieved of his duties as chief of staff for the FDP chairman by mutual agreement," the party's spokesman said in a terse statement.

Diplomatic cables published this week by WikiLeaks showed that an FDP mole at the closed-doors negotiations between the party and Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative bloc had given regular updates to a US embassy contact.

In the documents, Philip Murphy, the US ambassador in Berlin, describes the fly on the wall as a "young, up-and-coming party loyalist" who was taking notes during the marathon talks.

Among the indiscretions were a blow-by-blow account of an internal row over disarmament.

Westerwelle had pushed to have the new government demand the United States remove its nuclear weapons from German soil but Merkel dismissed his call as pointless without a broad-based international initiative.

The source is later quoted as describing veteran conservative Wolfgang Schaeuble, the current finance minister as "neurotic" and "an angry old man", before handing over several copies of documents from the negotiations.

The daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said that despite the revelations, Metzner, 41, would continue to work for the party.

On Monday, Westerwelle told reporters he did not believe his party had a spy in its ranks.

"I don't believe such stories," he said, adding that he "still had quite strong faith in the entire staff of the FDP, and particularly those who were present at the coalition talks".

Westerwelle comes in for harsh criticism in the secret documents published by Wikileaks, derided by US diplomats as incompetent, vain and critical of America.

© 2010 AFP

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