German President quits after Afghanistan row

Koehler`s resignation creates another headache for Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Berlin: German President Horst Koehler
announced his surprise resignation on Monday after appearing to
suggest the country`s unpopular Afghanistan mission was partly
motivated by commercial interests.

"I am resigning my post as federal president with
immediate effect," Koehler, 67, whose job is largely
ceremonial but who has to sign legislation before it can
become law, said in Berlin.

"It was an honour for me to serve Germany as president,"
a visibly emotional Koehler, only a year into his second term,
told reporters with his wife at his side.

"I thank the many people in Germany who have put their
trust in me and supported my work. I ask for you to understand
my decision."

Koehler`s resignation creates another headache for the
already under-pressure Chancellor Angela Merkel, 55, whose
popularity has plummeted barely half a year into her second
term.

A former managing director of the International Monetary
Fund, the popular Koehler was elected in 2004 by MPs and
public figures and won a second term in May 2009.

Koehler is a political ally of the conservative Merkel,
who invested considerable capital in getting him to serve a
second term, seeing off a challenger from the centre-left.

Koehler came under fire earlier this month for saying
that an export-reliant country like Germany occasionally
needed to defend its economic interests by preventing regional
instabilities like that in Afghanistan.

Such regional instabilities "certainly have a negative
impact on us through trade, jobs and income," Koehler told
German radio on May 22.

"I regret that my remarks about an important and
difficult issue for our country could lead to
misunderstanding," he said.

After the interview, Koehler said his comments were
"misunderstood" and that they were not meant to refer to the
mission in Afghanistan, where Germany has around 4,350 troops
in a NATO-led force tackling a Taliban-led insurgency.

PTI