Parcel at Merkel office was hazardous: spokesman

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A suspicious package was intercepted at German Chancellor Angela Merkel's offices Tuesday and contained material that "could have at least wounded people", her spokesman said.

Merkel was out of the country at the time, in Belgium on an official visit.

Officers from the Federal Crime Office (BKA) inspected the parcel, which arrived addressed to Merkel at the mail room in her chancellery complex, after staff reported a suspect shipment.

"The investigation shows that the content could have at least wounded people," Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters.

Seibert said that police had taken measures so the package would not explode or catch fire but declined to provide further details.

"She wishes to thank the security forces, who acted very prudently," he said.

A BKA spokeswoman said the parcel was being tested for dangerous material on site at Merkel's Berlin chancellery but that results would not be available before Wednesday.

Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel said the package contained gunpowder with the sender given as the Greek economy ministry. It was delivered by mail delivery firm UPS.

It said police had fired water cannon at the parcel to prevent an explosion.

Meanwhile the Berliner Morgenpost newspaper quoted security experts as saying the package contained a "bomb apparatus".

Neither a government spokeswoman nor the BKA confirmed the reports and noted that the investigation was continuing.

The news came after parcel bombs exploded at the Russian and Swiss embassies in Athens Tuesday and devices sent to three others were intercepted, the latest in a wave of attacks linked to left-wing extremists.

The packages were similar to four devices addressed to embassies in the Greek capital and intercepted Monday, including one addressed to French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Controlled explosions were carried out by police on suspect packages addressed to the German, Chilean and Bulgarian embassies.

During the Greek credit crisis in April, Merkel pushed hard for Athens to adopt major austerity measures before any bailout would be agreed. The subsequent budget cuts have proved deeply unpopular in Greece.

© 2010 AFP

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