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Germany

The Man Who Can’t Keep a Secret?

Once again, Germany’s defense minister has given the show away before the actors even take to the stage.

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Mr. Media-friendly

Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping on Friday rushed to clarify his reported statements on a US military intervention in Somalia. He told Germany’s largest daily paper "Bild" that no military plans for an anti-terror operation in Somalia existed.

Just a day earlier, Scharping was quoted in the daily "Financial Times Deutschland" as having said just the opposite. He reportedly told journalists during an informal chat in Brussels that the question was not whether the US would attack Somalia, but rather when and with what measures.

Angry reactions

Scharping’s alleged statements ruffled quite a few feathers in Washington. His US counterpart, Donald Rumsfeld, called them "complete rubbish".

In Germany, the opposition Christian Democrats (CDU) have called for Scharping’s resignation. "It is politically a scandal that this man remain in his position," said Friedrich Merz, CDU parliamentary floor leader.

Not the first time

Scharping has in the past had similar difficulties keeping his mouth shut. During a visit to German troops in Macedonia this summer, he divulged part of a secret operational strategy.

While the German forces for days tried to keep their marching route from Kosovo to Macedonia a secret, Scharping made statements to the press clearly indicating where the troops were proceeding. The forces then had to change their route and arrived at their destination with significant delays.

Blinded by love?

Scharping was also politically damaged this past summer following allegations that he took airforce jets to visit his girlfriend in Frankfurt and on the Mediterranean island of Majorca.

Pictures of Scharping and his girlfriend, Countess Kristina Pilati, in a popular German society magazine prompted opposition parliament members to take a closer look at his use of military flights. The pictures showed the two splashing about in a pool and kissing while vacationing on Majorca.

The minister interrupted his holiday to attend a parliamentary vote in Berlin on sending German troops on the NATO mission to Macedonia. He then used a military jet to fly back to Majorca for one night before travelling to Skopje to greet the troops.

The closed-door parliamentary hearing was broken off on September 11.

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