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Germany

Merkel's Speech Before Jewish Group "Key Reason" for US Trip

In the course of her second visit to the United States since taking office, German Chancellor Angela Merkel will address the annual meeting of the American Jewish Committee, the first German chancellor to do so.

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Merkel and Bush will share a podium Thursday at the AJC annual meeting

Following talks with George W. Bush Wednesday and after meetings with business bigwigs and the American Council on Germany in New York earlier Thursday, Merkel will travel back to Washington, DC, where she will be the first German chancellor to address the annual meeting of the American Jewish Committee.

The talk is considered the key event of her second US trip in five months, and the real reason for her to have made the trip.

American Jewish Committee in Berlin

American Jewish Committee logo

The American Jewish Committee (AJC), established in 1906, is now the largest Jewish organization in the US. In its own words, its goal is to promote and safeguard the welfare of Jews throughout the world, fight anti-Semitism, and deepen ties between US and Israeli Jews.

Star-studded pa n el

The group is celebrating its hundred-year anniversary with a week-long conference. The program reads like a who's who of modern day international policy and politics. The roster includes everyone from US newsman Ted Koppel and an A-list array of US Congress members, to the archbishop of Canterbury and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of the Art of Living Foundation.

For her part, Merkel will head up a dream-team panel of keynote speakers that includes US President George W. Bush, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, and Israel's designated deputy prime minister, Shimon Peres. The leaders of Jordan, Australia and Poland will be beamed in by video.

Germany considers the invitation to speak as a particular honor, reflecting strong US interest in Merkel and the new German government. Some 61 years after the end of the Nazi period, Merkel will be the first German head of government to address the AJC's annual conference.

UN-Informationsgipfel, Weltinformationsgipfel in Tunis, Kofi Annan

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan will also speak at the conference

The German branch of the AJC told dpa news agency that the invitation is a further step toward post-World War II conciliation between Germans and Jews.

"It is very symbolic to be invited to the 100-year anniversary," said Deidre Berger, head of the AJC's Berlin office. "We are very aware of that. The appearance of the chancellor at this event is by no means considered a matter of course among American Jews."

Germa n roots

Merkel is seen by the AJC as a positive figure. Berger called her a "very dynamic politician, who is trying to get German-American relations back up on its feet." On the day after Merkel's speech, the committee will honor ex-Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer for his activities on behalf of Israel, among other things.

New York based AJC has its roots in Germany. One of its founders, Jacob Schiff, was a German immigrant; the other, Louis Marshall, had German parents. Worried about pogroms in Russia, the pair founded the AJC to spread information and influence US policy on behalf of world Jewry.

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