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Germany

Congratulations from Abroad for Merkel

Political leaders from abroad have sending their best wishes to Angela Merkel on the news that she will become Germany's next -- and first female -- chancellor.

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EU foreign policy chief Solana sent Merkel his best wishes

The European Commission welcomed Monday the deal making conservative leader Angela Merkel Germany's new chancellor, saying it should ensure a "stable and strong" government after a three-week post-election limbo.

Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso "welcomes firstly the fact that the political parties have agreed on a government and a solution which ensures a stable and strong government for Germany," said spokeswoman Francoise Le Bail.

"The nomination of the German chancellor is good news," she added, saying that Barroso "looks forward to working with Mrs. Merkel, whom he knows well. He is happy that the period of waiting is over."

The EU's foreign policy chief Javier Solana also offered his congratulations on Monday to Merkel.

"The first thing I have to say is to congratulate her, if that is the final decision," Solana told reporters. "I wish her all the best and I wish all the best to the new government and all the best to the people of Germany."

Weeks of uncertainty

The initial EU reaction came after outgoing chancellor Gerhard Schröder's Social Democrats agreed that Merkel should replace him at the head of a coalition government. The power-sharing arrangement worked out with the Social Democrats, in which they will get eight cabinet positions, ends Gerhard Schröder's seven years in office.

The breakthrough followed three weeks of intense haggling after an inconclusive Sept. 18 election which left her Christian Democrats narrowly ahead, but not by enough to form a coalition with their preferred partners.

Jaap de Hoop Scheffer

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer reacts to the news that Germany's Angela Merkel will become the next German chancellor during a media conference at the EU Council building in Brussels, Monday Oct. 10, 2005.

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who spoke at the same news conference as Solana, wished Merkel the best, saying "it is really important for a woman to become leader of the German Federal Republic."

Both men declined to speculate on the policies of the new government and their potential impact on relations on the EU and NATO.

"Good news for Europe "

France's governing party congratulated Germany's conservative leader Angela Merkel on Monday, saying that it was "good news for Germany and for Europe" that she was to become chancellor.

The Union for a Popular Movement, or UMP, the conservative party of French President Jacques Chirac, said it was pleased "that the party of reform triumphs in Germany in the face of the conservatism of the extreme left," UMP spokeswoman Valerie Pecresse said.

It hailed Merkel who "showed, without playing on words, her stateman's qualities in extremely arduous negotiations," Pecresse said.

Der neue französische Außenminister Phillipe Douste-Blazy

Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy

France's Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy told the France Inter radio network that was "glad that Germany had emerged from a period of uncertainty."

"France is Germany's closest partner and there can be no development of Europe without the consummate cooperation of France and Germany," he said.

France's opposition socialists were less positive about the new governing coalition, which it described as a "German peculiarity," which would be unthinkable in France.

Woman to woman

Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, one of only three women heads of state in Europe, on Monday sent a letter of congratulations to Angela Merkel on her nomination as

chancellor of Germany.

Präsident Vaira Vike-Freiberga Lettland

Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga

"I know that Germany now faces difficult political tasks. I wish

you success and strength in your work," Vike-Freiberga said in the

letter.

"The elections in Germany have great importance not only for

your country, but also for other nations in our united Europe," Vike Freiberga wrote in German.

Vike-Freiberga was born in Riga in December 1937 and spent part of her childhood in German refugee camps. Now 67, she is halfway through her second and last term as president of Latvia, during which she oversaw Latvia's entry to the European Union.

The EU has only three women presidents -- Vike-Freiberga, Ireland's Mary McAleese and Finland's Tarja Halonen -- and no woman prime minister until Merkel is formally confirmed in office.

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