Berlin still debating choice of president, says Westerwelle
Senior German officials have not yet settled who to nominate for the German presidency after this week's sudden departure of incumbent Horst Koehler, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Thursday, DPA reported.
Berlin sources said likelihood that the country's popular labour minister, Ursula von der Leyen, 51, would be nominated were sinking, whereas a regional leader, Christian Wulff, 50, premier of Lower Saxony, appeared to be in the ascendant.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) and Westerwelle's Free Democrats (FDP) are expected to have a majority in the special assembly that must appoint a new president by the end of this month.
"Our discussions are continuing in a constructive way," said Westerwelle.
Former president Horst Koehler resigned with immediate effect on Monday in exasperation at criticism by pacifists of his views on defence policy.
ARD public television reported Leyen, who might have become Germany's first female president, was no longer in contention.
Sources told the German Press Agency dpa hours before Merkel and Westerwelle met their regional supporters that Wulff was the new front-runner. Wulff could not initially be reached for comment.
The largely ceremonial post of president is elected by a special body known as a Federal Council, which comprises the entire membership of the Bundestag parliament, plus an equal number of representatives nominated by the 16 states.