Merkel return trip gets jeopardised due to volcanic ash cloud



Merkel return trip gets jeopardised due to volcanic ash cloud 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 tomorrow.

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.

PTI