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Sigmar Gabriel rejects Greece war reparations claim

Chancellor Angela Merkel's deputy has rejected a Greek call for Germany to pay hundreds of billions of euros in reparations stemming from World War II. Opposition parties in Berlin see things differently.

Speaking in Berlin on Tuesday, Economy Minister and Deputy Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel described Athens' most recent assertion that it is owed more than 278 billion euros ($306 billion) as "quite frankly, stupid."

He also warned against trying to mix the current negotiations between Athens and its international creditors on further financial assistance with reparation claims from World War II, saying the two issues had "nothing at all to do with one another."

Quantified claim

The Social Democrat politician's comments came after Greece's deputy finance minister, Dimitris Mardas, told a parliamentary committee that the county's

General Accounting Office had calculated that Berlin owed Athens 278.7 billion euros, including a 10.3-billion-euro repayment of a "forced loan"

that the Nazis forced the Bank of Greece to issue.

The deputy chancellor, however, did not comment on the specific figure provided by Mardas. Gabriel also noted that Germany would not be able to draw a line under the debate over its responsibility stemming from World War II anytime in the "foreseeable future," and that it would always have to ask itself whether it has done enough to make amends.

The budgetary policy spokesman for Chancellor Merkel's Christian Democrats and their Bavaria-based sister party, the Christian Social Union, Eckhart Rehberg also warned against seeking to muddy the waters of Greece's negotiations with its creditors with reparations claims. Rehberg told the Reuters news agency that "for us, the issue of reparations is politically and legally closed."

Officials in Berlin have previously dismissed such claims, saying that the question of war reparations with Greece was settled in the treaty under which Germany was reunified in 1990.

Opposition call to pay back forced loan

Opposition politicians, though, weren't so quick to dismiss the claims. The Greens' spokesman on European affairs, Manuel Sarrazin, and the chairperson of the German-Greek group of parliamentarians, Annette Groth of the Left party, both called on the government to pay the 10.3 billion euros Mardas claimed Athens was owed for the forced loan.

Sarrazin also suggested that Germany and Greece should ask the International Court of Justice to examine any and all of Athens' other claims.

The reparations debate comes with Greece struggling to reach an agreement with its creditors, the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, which would keep financial aid coming.

Speculation that Athens may default on a of 450-million-euro repayment due on Thursday had been cause for concern, however

Greece has pledged to honor its commitment on time.

Tsipras heads to Moscow

Meanwhile,

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is set to travel to Moscow on Wednesday,

where he is expected to ask Russian President Vladimir Putting to ease restrictions on the import of Greek food products.

pfd/msh (Reuters, dpa)

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