Merkel pledges ‘honest’ dialogue with Islam
* Vows Germany will not be blackmailed by hostage-takers in Iraq
BERLIN: Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday pledged an “open and honest” dialogue with Islam, but denounced forced marriages and so-called “honour killings.”
“Dialogue with Islam carries great significance - we have to learn to understand each other,” Merkel told lawmakers in her first speech to parliament as chancellor. “We will do this in an open and honest way. We will not brush aside differences, but name them clearly.”
Merkel said forced marriages and honour killings “have nothing, completely nothing, to do with honour and also no place at all in our society. We cannot tolerate them.”
But she stressed, “Germany is a tolerant and cosmopolitan country” and pledged to defend the rights of all minority groups. Her government, she said, “will ... stand up whenever necessary against every form of extremism, racism and anti-Semitism.”
Meanwhile, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany would not be blackmailed by the captors of a German woman who has been kidnapped in Iraq, as her sister urged the government to show flexibility to save her life.
“We will not be blackmailed,” Merkel said in her first speech to the German parliament since taking office last week. “We cannot fail in our fight against terrorism.”
Germany’s ARD public television said it had obtained a video cassette in Baghdad in which the kidnappers threatened to kill Susanne Osthoff and her driver unless the German government broke off all cooperation with the Iraqi government.
Osthoff’s sister on Wednesday appealed to the government to reconsider its policy towards Iraq in order to save her.
“I hope that the government is not too obstinate and will give more thought to changing its policy on Iraq,” Osthoff’s sister Anja said.
Germany has no troops in Iraq and strongly opposed the US-led war but is helping to train Iraqi security forces, though not on Iraqi soil.
Merkel said her government “was aiming all its efforts at protecting the lives of Susanne Osthoff and her driver”. agencies