Mired in scandal,but German prez won’t quit

In the interview,conducted by Germany’s two public television stations,Wulff spoke quietly,his eyes frequently cast down as he chose his words.

Written by New York Times | Berlin | Published: January 6, 2012 12:33 am

President Christian Wulff of Germany fought back on Wednesday against a barrage of criticism over his handling of a private loan scandal,insisting in a nationally broadcast interview that he would not consider stepping down while admitting that he had made a “grave mistake.”

The uproar surrounding the president has threatened to engulf Chancellor Angela Merkel,who in 2010 handpicked Wulff for the presidency,elevating if also sidelining Wulff,a political rival,to a largely symbolic post. Calls for his resignation grew louder on Wednesday,with some members of Merkel’s conservative party joining in with the opposition.

Merkel made her first comment on the scandal ahead of the broadcast,expressing “full confidence” that Wulff would offer a sufficient explanation to all questions.

“The chancellor is absolutely confident that the president will continue to answer all open questions completely,” Merkel’s spokesman,Georg Streiter,told reporters. “She has enormous respect for the work of the president.”

In the interview,conducted by Germany’s two public television stations,Wulff spoke quietly,his eyes frequently cast down as he chose his words. He apologised for a threatening message he had left for Bild newspaper’s editor-in-chief Kai Diekmann in an attempt to prevent the publication of a critical report,saying,“That was a mistake.” “The call to the chief editor of Bild was a grave mistake,for which I apologise,” Wulff said.

He tried to explain his anger by saying he had only sought to delay the publication until he returned from a trip abroad.

Wulff’s remarks,on his first day back at work after Christmas holidayS,came in response to a building fury over his handling of questions about a private loan worth 500,000 euros,or about $650,000,and the ensuing attempts to quiet news media reports about it. He insisted he had not acted illegally in accepting the loan while he was premier of Lower Saxony state.

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