Westerwelle Calls For Protection Of German Opel Jobs In Clinton Meeting

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle met with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington Thursday, with a raft of issues on the agenda. The fate of German carmaker Opel is Germany's biggest concern.

The German foreign minister used his visit to Washington to demand that US auto giant General Motors take measures to protect German jobs at its troubled European subsidiary Opel.

Following a meeting with Hillary Clinton, Foreign Minister Westerwelle said he was satisfied that the US government was not involved in General Motors' sudden decision this week to keep its European subsidiary Opel.

Clinton had stressed that GM alone chose to abandon a deal to sell Opel to Canadian-Austrian parts-maker Magna, Westerwelle said after the meeting.

Clinton had "strongly underlined the fact that the decision taken by General Motors was a decision taken without any political influence," Westerwelle said. "It's very good news to receive."

The meeting between the two foreign ministers came two days after GM dramatically reneged on its plans to sell Opel, instead opting to restructure the company itself. The German government had clearly favored the Magna bid above others.

To sweeten the deal with Magna and Russian backers Sberbank, the German government offered a 1.5-billion-euro ($2.2 billion) bridging loan to GM to keep Opel afloat until negotiations could be finalized.

Westerwelle said Thursday he had made clear that the loan "must be paid back," adding that Clinton had shown "understanding for our position.
Germany's Afghan role

Clinton-thanked-Germany-for-its-Afghan-troop-deploymentClinton did not address GM's plans for Opel at a press conference after the meeting, instead shifting the focus to Germany's military deployment in Afghanistan.

She expressed her "great appreciation" for the German presence in the country, and called on the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai to do its best to combat the rampant corruption that tainted recent national elections held in the country.

Westerwelle also called on Karzai to address the "mismanagement" that saw thousands of fraudulent ballots cast during the elections that led to his re-election.
US relationship

In talks at the US Congress earlier Thursday, Westerwelle emphasized the significance of Germany's relationship with the US, referring to Washington as Berlin's "strongest and most important partner beyond Europe."

Obama-has-called-on-Russia-to-also-reduce-its-weapons-stockpileHe also touched on calls by US President Barack Obama for a world free of nuclear weapons, saying he wanted the initiative to be "accompanied not only by rhetoric but also by actions."

He predicted that the next eighteen months show decide whether the coming decade would be one of "disarmament or armament".

Clinton, meanwhile, announced Thursday she would be attending ceremonies in Berlin to mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.