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Merkel return trip gets jeopardised due to volcanic ash cloud

Last Updated: Saturday, April 17, 2010 - 22:14

Berlin: German Chancellor Angela Merkel`s
aircraft was diverted to Lisbon en-route her journey back home
after attending the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington as
massive drifts of volcanic ash blanketed European airspace
shutting down major airports including the Berlin.

The aircraft "Konrad Adenauer" was diverted to Lisbon
yesterday and she had to spend the night in a hotel there. As
the airspace over Germany and several other European nations
remained closed today, Merkel was forced to flew into Rome.
A German government statement said the chancellor will
try to fly back to Berlin if the situation improves, but it is
still unclear which route she will take.

Reports said there are plans for Chancellor Merkel and
her 60-member entourage to travel by bus from Rome to the
German border.

Foreign Minister and Deputy Chancellor Guido
Westerwelle is carrying out the government business in Berlin
in the absence of the chancellor.

The chancellor`s aircraft has all communication
facilities and she is in constant touch with Berlin, the
reports said.

The chancellor is among a number of world leaders who
are expected to attend the funeral of Poland`s President Lech
Kaczynski and his wife Maria in the southern city of Krakow

It is still unclear how the chancellor will be able to
reach Krakow because Poland`s airspace is also closed.

The volcanic ash spewed by an Icelandic volcano, which
caused the worst air travel chaos across northern and central
Europe since the end of World War II, also disrupted the
return journey of German Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu
Guttenberg after his visit to Afghanistan.

Guttenberg`s aircraft, which also carried five German
soldiers who were injured in a Taliban attack on Thursday, was
diverted to Istanbul and the soldiers, some of whom suffered
serious injuries, were admitted to a hospital there for
emergency treatment.

The body of four soldiers of Germany`s contingent to
the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in
Afghanistan, who were killed in Thursday`s attack, will be
flown back to Germany after the flight ban is lifted, the
German Defence Ministry said.

The ministry also confirmed that the soldiers were
killed in the detonation of a remote-controlled roadside bomb
placed by the Taliban while they were on a patrol near Baghlan
town in northern Afghanistan and not in a Taliban rocket
attack as originally believed.

The ministry said the soldiers were travelling in a
convoy of several vehicles of the ISAF. As they stopped before
a bridge, the last vehicle of the convoy, an armoured
personnel carrier of the type "Eagle", was blown up by a
roadside bomb.

Three German soldiers died in the explosion while a
fourth soldier lost his life in a grenade attack on a group of
German soldiers by the Taliban elsewhere in northern
Afghanistan, the ministry said.


First Published: Saturday, April 17, 2010 - 22:14

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