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Germany

Fischer Targets Opposition In Visa Scandal

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer on Thursday warned that the ongoing heated debate over his role in a damning illegal immigration affair could affect Germany's international standing. "We can't allow Germany's image in the world to be negatively influenced by this debate," he said during a Green party election campaign in Kiel. Fischer stressed that the controversial visa policy carried out by his ministry -- which critics claim led to German embassies and consulates around the world issuing visas to "hundreds of thousands" of illegal immigrants including prostitutes and human traffickers -- was within the existing legal framework. The issue has already claimed the scalp of his deputy Ludmer Vollmer. At the same time Fischer suggested that even the conservative opposition has in the past shown to be in favor of less restrictive visa rules, notably under the chancellorship of Helmut Kohl of the Christian Democratic Party (CDU). The foreign minister said that even Bavaria's conservative Interior Minister Günther Beckstein was a proponent of lax visa rules "so that patients from the Middle East come to Bavarian clinics and not travel to the US instead." Fischer also claimed that opposition Christian Social Union politician Hans-Peter Uhl, who now heads the investigative committee examining the visa scandal, had demanded less strict visa rules as did members of the CDU.

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