Steinmeier: Resignation Is Not Open to Debate | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 26.01.2007
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Steinmeier: Resignation Is Not Open to Debate

As media reports accusing Foreign Minster Frank-Walter Steinmeier's of rejecting a 2002 US offer for the release of a Guantanamo Bay inmate increase, the minister said he would not hand in his resignation.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Steinmeier is facing numerous leaks to the press about his alleged role in Kurnaz' detention

While serving as chief of staff for then Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, Steinmeier was directly involved in planning to keep Murat Kurnaz, a German-born Turk, from returning to Germany, which may have prolonged his detention in the US military prison on Cuba, according to a report in Friday's Berliner Zeitung.

The paper quoted from documents it said showed the Chancellery and Interior Ministry had agreed not to allow Kurnaz to reenter Germany and had his residence permit revoked to avoid the possibility of a drawn out deportation trial.

Murat Kurnaz vor Untersuchungsausschuß

Kurnaz was released in 2006

"The thin evidence of a terrorist background would provoke a long legal confrontation while the foreigner lives in Germany," the paper reported the letter as saying.

Another report published Friday in the Frankfurter Rundschau said the former coalition of Social Democrats and Greens had falsely presented Kurnaz as a threat to Germany's national security as late as 2005. He was released without being charged in 2006.

Steinmeier not considering resignation

In a report issued to a parliamentary control committee, deputy interior and foreign ministers reached the conclusion Kurnaz could be denied a visa "by means of legally permissible material," despite additional notes that the Interior Ministry "hoped to receive more information against K. from the US," the daily reported.

In addition to saying his resignation was "not open to debate," Steinmeier also rejected the newspapers' claims that he or anyone in the Schröder administration was responsible for extending Kurnaz' detention.

Entführung Irak Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Steinmeier has received support from Chancellor Angela Merkel and said he won't quit

"The alternatives were not Germany or Guantanamo," he told the mass-circulation Bild-Zeitung on Friday. "What would be wrong with releasing him to Turkey, where his wife and other family members live?"

Steinmeier also hinted that conditions set for a release, possibly including using Kurnaz to infiltrate radical Islamist groups, were unacceptable. Berlin's Tagesspiegel newspaper reported that the German reluctance to use Kurnaz as a spy may have convinced the Americans to keep him in prison.

Protecting German national security

Steinmeier added that the German government was focused on protecting the country's national security after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks in the United States.

"Guaranteeing the safety of 82 million people in Germany was our highest priority," he told Bild. "Leading members of the attacks in New York and Washington came from Hamburg and there were additional groups and networks of Islamists ready to use violence in other German cities. We had to expect the possibility of violence here and do everything we could to prevent it."

The European Parliament also concluded this week that Germany had turned down a US offer to release Kurnaz. A German parliamentary committee is investigating the matter.

Opposition demands answers

Deutschland BND Ausschuss Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Steinmeier testified in front of a second German investigation in December

Max Stadler, a member of the free-market liberal Free Democratic Party and a member of the inquiry panel, said Steinmeier will have to explain why the previous government did not think it appropriate to take Kurnaz back after he was no longer though to be a terror suspect.

"This opportunity to secure Kurnaz' release should have been taken, no doubt about that," he said. "I can't really see any sound reasons why the previous German government didn't do this."

For his part, Steinmeier said he was also interested in clearing up the issue as soon as possible, though he is unlikely to testify before March.

"What is showing up in newspapers does not provide a complete picture," he told Bild. "I am going to do my part so that at the end everything is clear."

Petra Pau of the opposition Left Party said Steinmeier's silence indicates that he has something to hide, pointing to the chances he's had to clear up the situation in the past.

"The foreign minister had every opportunity to testify before the European Union's inquiry panel," she said. "But Steinmeier chose not to appear, which is a real scandal. Steinmeier is free to tell the public in more detail what he did -- or did not do -- to secure Kurnaz' release without revealing any classified information."

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