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Germany

Germany in Brief

German opposition criticizes anti-war protesters in cabinet; Government weighs smallpox threat; Germans giving thought to anti-congestion charge.

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Protesting ministers: Jürgen Trittin and Renate Künast

Opposition Criticizes Cabinet Members For War Protest

The parliamentary opposition on Monday intensified its criticism of three cabinet members and the president of the German parliament, Wolfgang Thierse, who joined anti-war demonstrations last weekend in Berlin. With their protest these politicians played down the threat of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein rather than taking a stand against war, Christian Democrat Wolfgang Bosbach told the German daily Bild. Chancellor Gerhard Schröder said Monday he was impressed by the number of people who turned out peacefully to take part in worldwide protests against a war on Iraq. Around half a million people marched through Berlin, making it one of the biggest postwar demonstrations ever seen in Germany, police and organizers said.

Smallpox Threat Played Down

The German government told citizens on Monday they should not panic over the possibility that terrorists could unleash smallpox agents in the country. At the same time, the government continues to bolster its supply of vaccine. It now has about 38 million doses and plans to have 100 million by year's end. The leader of the country's biggest opposition party, the Christian Democratic Union, said the party would demand the government address the smallpox danger in a meeting of Parliament. Angela Merkel said Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's government was not doing enough to inform the country about the threat Iraq posed.

Germans Mull Anti-Congestion Fee

As the most ambitious attempt ever to break gridlock in a big city center began in London on Monday, some Germans pushed the idea of imposing a congestion fee in their city centers, too. A system modeled after the London congestion charge could be designed to cut traffic by 15 percent, a spokesman for a pro-railway lobby group said. Revenues from the tax could then be invested in public transportation and the development of improved traffic solutions in city centers. The German government is reviewing the possibilities of a congestion tax, said the spokesman, Dirk Flege. According to a BMW study, traffic jams in Germany cost the economy €100 billion ($107.3 billion) a year. Under London’s Congestion Charge, drivers must pay 5 pounds ($8) from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.to drive inside a zone of eight square miles (21 square kilometers) that stretches from London’s financial district to Hyde Park.

Compiled from wire reports