German president has no plans to step down: report

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Embattled German President Christian Wulff wants to stay in office despite a mounting series of scandals, media reported Wednesday, as Chancellor Angela Merkel faced pressure over the affair.

Public broadcaster ARD cited sources close to Wulff as saying he had no plans to step down despite intense criticism of his business dealings and threats he made against at least two reporters to snuff out critical stories.

His office could not immediately be reached for comment.

Wulff, 52, landed in hot water last month when the powerful daily Bild reported that he had concealed a home loan at an advantageous interest rate he accepted from the wife of a tycoon friend while premier of Lower Saxony state.

When opposition state deputies asked him whether he had business dealings with the tycoon or any firms connected with him, Wulff had kept quiet.

This week it emerged that Wulff had called Bild's editor-in-chief Kai Diekmann one day before the story's publication and left a blistering voicemail message threatening him with "war" if he went ahead with the report.

Meanwhile another publication, Welt am Sonntag, said one of its reporters had been summoned to the presidential palace for a dressing-down over another article, about Wulff's strained relationship with his half-sister.

Wulff's presidency has been rocky from the start.

Merkel had handpicked him as her candidate for head of state but his election in June 2010 proved humiliating for her as members of her own coalition broke ranks and refused to vote for him in parliament.

He only eked out a victory in the third round.

A leader of the opposition Greens party, Claudia Roth, said Wednesday it was now up to Merkel to address the scandals buffeting her fellow conservative, whose role is largely ceremonial but who serves as a kind of moral arbiter.

"After all, she was the one who made the presidential election into an issue of her own power instead of seeking consensus," Roth told the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

The chancellor has until now issued terse statements expressing her confidence in Wulff without touching on the substance of the accusations against him.

© 2012 AFP

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