Germany in Brief | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 01.08.2003
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Germany in Brief

Blix says Germany should help rebuild Iraq; kidnappers demand ransom for European hostages; German government under fire for truck toll delay; and Attac summer camp.


Former UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix urges a greater European role in postwar Iraq.

Blix supports German role in Iraq

Former UN weapons inspector Hans Blix said Germany and France should take an active role in the reconstruction of Iraq, even though both countries opposed the U.S.-led war to oust the regime of dictator Saddam Hussein. In an interview published in the Friday edition of Hanover's Neue Presse newspaper, the Swedish diplomat said, however, both Berlin and Paris should then have be able to help shape the rebuilding of the country. “We need real cooperation and not something that is dictated by Washington or London only,” he told the paper. He said he supported a stronger role for Europe within the United Nations, but that the European Union should not attempt to become a rival to the United States.

Sahara kidnappers demand ransom

Kidnappers holding 14 European tourists hostage in the Sahara Desert have demanded around €64 million ($72 million) for their release, a journalist for the German television broadcasters RTL and n-tv reported. Mark Kohlbecher referred to a diplomat in Mali, who allegedly told him a tribal chief from Mali was acting as a middleman between the kidnappers and the German government. He said the kidnappers had demanded €4.6 million for each hostage. The German government was unwilling to confirm the information. A few days ago the German broadcaster ARD reported that a 46-year-old woman, who was among the people kidnapped, had died of heatstroke. The remaining nine Germans, four Swiss and one Dutchman were abducted in Algeria more than five months ago. The government says the tourists are being held by the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC).

Germans living longer

The life expectancy for Germans continues to increase, according to new statistics released on Friday. A German boy born today can expect to live to be 75.1 years old on average, and a baby girl is likely to reach the ripe old age of 81.1, the Federal Statistics Office in Wiesbaden said. The life expectancy for both men and women increased by three months since the last study was completed a year ago. Elderly Germans can also plan on collecting their pensions a little longer. Whereas a 60-year-old man is likely to live another 19.5 years -- an increase of three months compared to last year -- a 60 year-old woman has another 23.7 years -- a gain of two months. But compared internationally, Germans still lag behind other Europeans for longevity: Swedish men now have a life expectancy of 77.5 years and French women will reach on average 83.0 years.

Truck toll delay

Germany’s conservative opposition on Friday called for the resignation of Transport Minister Manfred Stolpe over the embarrassing delay of the country’s new high-tech highway toll system for large trucks. Stople announced on Thursday the systems start would be postponed until November 2 from the originally-planned August 31. The delay will cost the German treasury €326 million ($366 million) in lost fees. The opposition said the government had managed the project poorly and Stolpe should be prepared to stand down for the debacle. Considered one of the most technologically-advanced toll systems in Europe, Germany’s plan has encountered problems with the European Commission. Brussels fears that by fitting trucks with electronic tracking devices to charge transport companies 12.4 cents per kilometer the system could discriminate against other European truckers.

Attac summer camp

The anti-globalization network Attac on Friday started a summer academy in the German town of Münster. The camp, which is on "misguided globalization," is expected to draw 900 participants. The course will cover issues of democracy and power as well as the widening gap between rich northern countries and those in the poorer south. The camp will run through next Wednesday. Attac, founded in France in 1998, claims 10,000 members in Germany and 80,000 worldwide.

Compiled by with material from wire reports.