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Germany

Schröder to Visit Russia for Putin's Birthday

German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder will visit Russia on Friday and Saturday for talks with his close ally, President Vladimir Putin, who celebrates his 53rd birthday on Friday. German government officials said on Tuesday that Schröder and Putin would discuss relations between Russia and the European Union during the two-day visit to Saint Petersburg, but its timing also reflects the close friendship between the two men. With Schröder's position as chancellor increasingly in question following inconclusive general elections last month, the visit could be his last to Russia as German leader. Putin visited Berlin days before the Sept. 18 general election to oversee the signing of a major deal for a German-Russian gas pipeline, but his presence was seen by many commentators as an attempt to boost Schröder's standing ahead of the vote. Schröder said for the first time on Monday that he might be prepared to abandon his claim to serve a third term as chancellor, but his party continues to insist that he and not conservative challenger Angela Merkel should govern the country.

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