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New German government to seek removal of US nuclear weapons

Foreign Minister-designate Guido Westerwelle has renewed calls for a withdrawal of US nuclear weapons based in Germany, saying he would hold talks with the Obama adminstration on the issue.

nuclear warhead

The US is estimated to have around 20 nuclear warheads in Germany

Speaking at a meeting of his business-friendly FDP party in Berlin on Sunday, Westerwelle said the new German government would support the vision of US President Barack Obama for a world free of nuclear weapons.

"We will take President Obama at his word and enter talks with our allies so that the last of the nuclear weapons still stationed in Germany, relics of the Cold War, can finally be removed," Westerwelle said.

"Germany must be free of nuclear weapons," he said, adding that he would personally make efforts towards that purpose.

No unilateral move to remove nuclear arms

His comments came a day after his FDP party reached agreement with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives for a new center-right government scheduled to take office on October 28.

The coalition agreement reached by the two sides calls specifically for talks with NATO and the US to remove the weapons.

Guido Westerwelle, Angela Merkel and Horst Seehofer

Westerwelle wants to make the removal of US nuclear arms a priority

Chancellor Angela Merkel confirmed this goal, but emphasized no unilateral action would be taken to remove the nuclear warheads. "We do not want any independent action here," Merkel said on Saturday in Berlin.

The US, which deployed nuclear weapons in various European countries in the 1950s, is estimated to have 20 atomic warheads in Germany.

No official or publicly accessible information is available on where the weapons were stored. But some of the missiles are believed to be stationed at the Buechel airbase in the western German state of Rhineland- Palatinate.

Controversial issue in Germany

Westerwelle, 47, has little direct foreign policy experience. But the removal of US nuclear weapons from German soil is an issue he has regulary emphasized.

His FDP party is pro-American and has long campaigned for disarmament.

A protest in Frankfurt against US nuclear weapons

Germany regularly sees protests against US nuclear weapons in the country

The nuclear issue, including nuclear power, is highly unpopular in Germany, with shipments of nuclear waste regularly triggering angry protests. The country has no permanent storage site for the waste.

The new German government recently agreed to reverse plans to abandon nuclear power. Berlin is eager to reduce dependency on gas and oil imports, but environmentalists have already vowed to fight the decision.


Editor: Sonia Phalnikar

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