- China makes its mark with Times Square ads
- Israel says time running out for Iran
- Couples face off in kissing contest
- Yemen clashes raise tensions, threaten presidential election
- Weary crew fights to save stranded US dolphins
- Birthday turns into memorial for Kim
- Greece rushes to slash budget
- German leader announces resignation
- At least 7 killed in Afghan Quran burning protests
- Explosions in Congo kill 200, including 4 Chinese
|Email | Print | Share||Text Size|
BERLIN - Angela Merkel's hand-picked choice for the ceremonial post of president resigned on Friday in a scandal over political favors, dealing a blow to the German chancellor in the midst of the eurozone crisis.
In a curt five-minute statement at the Bellevue presidential palace, Christian Wulff said he had lost the trust of the German people, making it impossible to continue in a role that is meant to serve as a moral compass for the nation.
"For this reason it is no longer possible for me to exercise the office of president at home and abroad as required," Wulff said, standing next to his wife Bettina.
Merkel postponed a trip to Rome where she was to hold talks with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti and made a brief statement after Wulff spoke, saying she regretted his departure.
The situation changed dramatically for Wulff on Thursday evening when state prosecutors in Hannover asked parliament to end his legal immunity over accusations he accepted favors in a prelude to opening an investigation into him.
It is the first time ever that prosecutors have wanted to investigate a German president, and the move triggered direct calls from opposition parties for the 52-year-old Wulff to go.
He is the second president to step down within two years. His predecessor, former International Monetary Fund chief Horst Koehler, resigned unexpectedly in 2010 after coming under fire for comments he made about the German mission in Afghanistan.
Until now, Wulff, who was premier of the state of Lower Saxony before becoming president, had said he would stay in office to clear his name. He reiterated his desire to hang on to his post in a briefing with journalists on Thursday evening.
At a time when Merkel is trying to solve the crisis enveloping the single currency bloc, the last thing she needs is the distraction of a presidential resignation and a potentially divisive search for a replacement.
Analysts say Wulff's departure could become a problem for Merkel's Christian Democrats who are struggling to retain control of the states of Schleswig-Holstein and Saarland in elections later this year.