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Germany

Newspaper: Merkel to Make France Her First Trip

Incoming German Chancellor Angela Merkel will make Paris her first foreign destination as leader the day after she is voted into office next week, a newspaper reported Thursday.

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Merkel's ready to step on the international stage

Die Welt daily wrote in its Friday edition that Merkel would have lunch Wednesday with French President Jacques Chirac and have talks with Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin. Merkel's party, the conservative Christian Democratic Union, said it could not confirm the report.

Merkel is on the same side of the political spectrum as Chirac although she will lead a power-sharing government of the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats of outgoing Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.

The lower house of the German parliament, the Bundestag, is to go through the formality of voting her in as chancellor on Tuesday, more than two months after the inconclusive general election.

Incoming Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has said the new Berlin government will maintain the Franco-German relationship, often described as a motor of the European Union.

Die Welt said Merkel was also hoping to visit Germany's eastern neighbor Poland as part of the same trip, but that had yet to be decided because it was feared she would not have enough time to meet President Aleksander Kwasniewski, his designated successor Lech Kaczynski and the newly elected Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz.

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