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Germany

New German Foreign Minister Calls on Annan at UN

Germany's new Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called on UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan here Monday shortly after arriving on a two-day US visit that will also feature talks in Washington with Condoleezza Rice.

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Steinmeier with Kofi Annan in New York on Monday

The two men shook hands at a photo opportunity before huddling for talks at Annan's office here.

Steinmeier was later to confer with senior representatives of Jewish organisations before flying to Washington for talks with Rice and her deputy Robert Zoellick on Tuesday.

Steinmeier's first visit to the United States as Germany's top diplomat comes less than a week after conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel's left-right coalition government took office in Berlin.

Merkel took office last Tuesday at the helm of a left-right coalition government and has said she hopes to "intensify" transatlantic ties.

Her predecessor, former chancellor Gerhard Schröder, had difficult relations with Washington over his active opposition to the US-led war in Iraq.

CIA flights

The German foreign minister's talks with Rice and other US officials coincide with concerns in Europe over reports that the CIA flew suspected Islamic extremists to secret prisons in Europe.

Stopovers allegedly took place at German airports.

His deputy minister Guenter Gloser said on Monday he believed that Steinmeier would push Washington for an explanation.

"Against the backdrop of this debate, we will be looking for ways to clear up this issue," Gloser told Bayerischer Rundfunk radio.

Steinmeier said in an interview published Sunday that he was concerned by the CIA plane accounts but would reserve judgment until Washington addressed the subject.

Busy schedule

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Bundesaußenminister

Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Berlin

Steinmeier will visit London on Thursday and Moscow on Saturday in the latest of a round of getting-to-know-you visits since taking office.

In between, Steinmeier will accompany Chancellor Angela Merkel to Poland on Friday, government sources said on Monday. Since taking office last week, he has already visited Paris, Brussels, The Hague, Rome and Madrid and has held talks in Berlin with his Czech and Estonian counterparts.

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