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Germany

Germany in Brief

Unions and employers look to end eastern German strikes; German-Americans biggest U.S. ethnic group; German cabinet discusses expanding Afghanistan mission; and expert confirms disputed Dürer paiting is authentic.

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Strikes in the eastern German metal and auto industries are in their fourth week.

Employers and union returning to bargaining table

German trade union officials and representatives from employers plan to meet on Thursday to sound out possible compromises in the continuing conflict in to shorten the work week for eastern German metal industry workers. Metal, auto and electrical workers in the formerly communist eastern German states have been striking for nearly four weeks to cut their week to 35 hours -- the same as their western colleagues. On Wednesday around 8,500 union members took part in the strike, trade union IG Metall said. Assembly lines at BMW factories in Regensburg and Munich in western Germany came to a halt on Monday for lack of components from the striking eastern states. The next round of formal talks to end the strikes could begin on Friday.

Schröder meets opposition leader to discuss health reform

German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and conservation opposition leader Angela Merkel on Wednesday agree to try and come up with a common approach to reforms to the German health care system by mid-July, government spokesman Hans Langguth said in Berlin. The meeting marks the first time the two have discussed health issues since February. Talks are pegged to begin on Sunday to hammer out changes to the cash-strapped national health system, but a deal is far from certain as the two parties positions on the reforms remain far apart.

German-Americans largest group in U.S.

People of German heritage make up the largest ethnic group in the United States, according to the Verein für deutsche Sprache, or German language association, in Dortmund. Some 80 million German-Americans live in the United States, 8 million of whom speak fluent German, according to the results of a study carried out by the organization and the German journalists group International Media Aid. The organization stressed the influence of German immigrants, who had introduced words like 'poltergeist' and 'rucksack' into American English.

Cabinet discusses expanding mission in Afghanistan

Germany's cabinet discussed expanding German participation in the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan on Wednesday. The ministers assessed a U.S. proposal for international forces to protect civilians working to rebuild the country in the Afghan countryside. A German fact-finding mission, which returned on Sunday from Afghanistan, was due to report its findings to the government. Defense Minister Peter Struck has said a final decision will not be made until September. The current mission is restricted to policing the Afghan capital Kabul and the immediate surrounding area.

Expert confirms authenticity of Dürer painting

After years of disagreement over its authenticity, an expert in Munich has declared that a painting hanging in the Germanic National Museum in Nuremberg is indeed from the 16th century German artist Albrecht Dürer. The work, which the museum bought in 1925, shows a woman with a white veil, who is thought to have been the artist's mother. In the run-up to a large Dürer exhibition planned to open in the Albertina in Vienna in September, the Germanic Museum had the painting re-examined. The museum's painting expert, Daniel Hess, compared the work to a painting Dürer made of his father and another of both of the painter's parents. Dürer had made the painting of his mother before he did the portrait of both parents, which explained the differences in the works, Hess said. Museum head Ulrich Großmann said the finding was a sensation and possibly the most important art historical discovery in the past 20 years.

Compiled by DW staff with material from wire services.