Europe

Germany's President Wulff rejects resignation calls

  • 4 January 2012
  • From the section Europe

Germany's President Christian Wulff says he will not resign over his conduct in a home loan scandal.

He has come under increasing pressure after it emerged he had threatened a newspaper with legal action if it published details about the controversial loan.

In a recorded TV interview, Mr Wulff said the threat was a "serious mistake" for which he was sorry.

When asked whether he had considered stepping down, he replied: "No."

Mr Wulff said he had not thought of resigning because he had received considerable support over the past weeks from citizens, friends and colleagues.

He then tried to sum up his failings: "I know that I haven't done anything legally wrong - but not everything that I have done has been right."

"I gladly took on my [presidential] responsibilities. After my five-year term I want people to be able to make the judgement that I was a good, successful president," he told two journalists from the national ARD and ZDF networks.

Earlier, Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, Georg Streiter, told a news briefing on Wednesday that she had "enormous respect for the work of the president". He added that she was confident Mr Wulff would "fully answer all relevant questions".

Angry voicemail

A centre-right Christian Democrat, Christian Wulff, 52, was Chancellor Merkel's candidate for the presidency after Horst Koehler stood down in May 2010 over remarks about German's military deployment in Afghanistan.

Last month it emerged that he had received a low interest 500,000 euro home loan (£417,000; $649,000) from the wife of a wealthy businessman in October 2008, while prime minister of Lower Saxony state.

He has denied misleading state deputies over the loan which was later replaced with a bank mortgage.

Further revelations came this week, when it became clear that the president had left an angry voicemail on the mobile phone of Bild newspaper's chief editor, Kai Diekmann, on 12 December threatening legal action if it published the loan story.

A call was also made to Bild's publisher, in an attempt to suppress the article. The paper said he later apologised.

In his TV interview on Wednesday, Mr Wulff defended his decision to take the private loan: "I would not like to be president of a country in which you can no longer borrow money from a friend."

Although Mr Wulff apologised last month for not disclosing the details of the loan before becoming president, the details of his threatening phone calls have caused alarm in Germany.

Mr Wulff said he had called Bild's chief editor simply to ask for a day's delay before publication to enable him to return from an official trip to the Gulf. He added that his apology to Mr Diekmann had been accepted.

A CDU party colleague, Vera Lengsfeld, earlier joined a number of newspapers in calling for his resignation, arguing that Mr Wulff could no longer be taken seriously by most Germans.

Although the post of president is largely ceremonial, it is also supposed to provide a moral compass for the nation.

The BBC's Berlin correspondent, Stephen Evans, says that the allegation facing Mr Wulff is that by trying to bully Bild newspaper he was trying to tamper with the freedom of the press.

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