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Merkel moves to defuse banker birthday flap

Merkel moves to defuse banker birthday flap

Chancellor Angela Merkel moved Wednesday to defuse a pre-election flap over a dinner at her office with Germany's most prominent banker, rejecting suggestions she threw him a birthday party and saying she keeps a proper distance from managers.
Political opponents raised questions over the April 2008 dinner this week after a television documentary was aired in which Deutsche Bank AG chief executive Josef Ackermann suggested Merkel had allowed him to invite about 30 people to a 60th birthday event at the chancellery.
Merkel's office disputes that, saying that the chancellor chose the guests. Spokesman Klaus Vater said the dinner was "business as usual."
"There was a dinner _ not as a birthday party, but in the time around Mr. Ackermann's 60th birthday _ with the theme of talks between business, culture, education and research," the chancellor told N24 television.
"I am someone who always tries to bring together groups that don't normally come together," Merkel said. "I know that many people see something like this and say, 'is there too close a link between politics and business?'"
"One has to be sensitive _ so I understand the questions," Merkel said. "But I think that distance is absolutely preserved," she added, noting that she has sometimes been critical of Ackermann.
Ackermann is a divisive figure in Germany, where some on the left have long viewed him a symbol of corporate greed _ a status that arose from his involvement in the payment of disputed bonuses in a takeover battle. Criminal charges in that case were dropped.
The conservative Merkel's Social Democratic rivals in Germany's Sept. 27 election have called for her to clarify reports of the dinner, saying that a private event for Ackermann at taxpayers' expense would be improper.
The flap comes after the health minister, a Social Democrat, came under fire for having her official car driven to join her on holiday in Spain, where it was stolen.
Parliament's budget committee was to consider both the car affair and the dinner Wednesday.


Updated : 2021-07-28 22:58 GMT+08:00