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Germany

Germany in Brief

At least 28 German passengers are killed when their bus crashes in France; protesters reject government reform plans in Berlin; Algerian forces are ready to free the 15 Europeans kidnapped in the Sahara Desert and more.

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Examining the debris: The passengers had won the trip in a lottery.

28 German tourists killed in bus crash in France

A German tourist bus crashed down an embankment on a French motorway outside Lyon, France on Saturday morning, killing at least 28 passengers and injuring 47. The accident took place around 5:00 p.m. local time around ten kilometers away from Lyon, when the driver lost control of the vehicle in heavy rain. French authorities said the bus crashed through a guard rail, slid down an embankment and hit an electrical pole before toppling over onto its roof. A police spokesman said the bus had been going to fast. The driver was killed in the crash. The double-decker bus was bound for Spain with 75 passengers who had won the trip in a lottery. Most of the passengers came from northern Germany. Just over a week ago 33 German vacationers were killed in an accident in Hungary, when the bus they were riding in was hit by a train.

Algerian military reportedly to free European hostages

Military forces are preparing to free the 15 remaining European vacationers who were kidnapped in the Sahara Desert in Algeria, the local newspaper Liberté reported. The mountainous region of Tamelrik, where the Europeans are being kept, had been surrounded by special forces units and paratroopers, the paper wrote, attributing the information to military sources. The operations could begin next week, it said. Ten Germans, four Swiss and one Dutch national are still being held. The Algerian Army freed the 17 other kidnapped European vacationers on Wednesday.

Trade unions protest in Berlin

Around 10,000 demonstrators protested in Berlin on Saturday against planned social and economic reforms. Frank Bsirske, head of the services union Verdi, and Ursula Engelen-Kefer, deputy chairperson of the German trade union association DGB, criticized German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's "Agenda 2010" reform package. "At the moment pure social cuts are being sold as reform policies," Bsirske told the crowds. Engelen-Kefer said the plans were socially unjust. The union leaders, however, emphasized that structural reform was necessary. "It's not a question of 'whether' but rather 'how' and 'where to'," Bsirske said. On Friday, three of the eight unions in the DGB broke ranks and announced they would support the chancellor's plans.

Defense Minister considers decommissioning fighter planes

Defense Minister Peter Struck wants to take around 90 Tornado fighter planes out of service by 2005, the Welt am Sonntag newspaper reported. Struck said he would no longer rule out closing down certain military sites on a small scale, since decommissioning the planes would involve disbanding squadrons, he said in the interview. Struck is charged with modernizing the chronically underfunded and overstretched German Armed Forces.

Compiled by DW-WORLD staff with material from news agencies.

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