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Minister in Hitler row unfazed

Berlin, Sept. 22: (Reuters): German justice minister Herta Daeubler-Gmelin, who allegedly likened President George W. Bush’s methods to those of Adolf Hitler, denied reports today she would resign after Germany’s general election.

Bild newspaper, citing government sources, said Daeubler-Gmelin would announce her resignation after polling booths closed this evening to stave off mounting criticism from within her own party and anger in Washington.

However, the minister dismissed the report. “You shouldn’t be taken in by every hoax... These are ill-meaning rumours that simply serve to unsettle voters,” she said.

Daeubler-Gmelin has faced opposition calls to resign after a newspaper reported she told a meeting of trade union members last week that Bush’s threats to attack Iraq were a way of diverting attention from domestic problems.

“Hitler did that, too,” she was quoted as saying. Daeubler-Gmelin has denied drawing any parallels between Bush and Hitler and said her remarks were misinterpreted.

The affair has provoked angry responses from US officials and worsened German-US ties already hurt by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s outright opposition to any US unilateral military action against Iraq. Bush’s national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said US-German relations had been “poisoned”.

“How can you use the name Hitler and the name of the president of the US in the same sentence' Particularly, how can a German, given the devotion of the US in the liberation of Germany from Hitler'” she told The Financial Times. “An atmosphere has been created that is in that sense poisoned.”

US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld told CNN television in an interview on Saturday that he had no plans to meet German defence minister Peter Struck at a NATO meeting in Warsaw, Poland, next week. German media today viewed this as a deliberate snub.

Schroeder’s position on Iraq has nevertheless proved popular in a nation that has had a strong pacifist streak since the Second World War ended. His stance helped his centre-left Social Democrat party erase the lead of Germany’s opposition conservatives.

Voting in his home constituency of Wolfratshausen, near Munich, conservative opposition leader Edmund Stoiber said he would work swiftly to mend fences with the US if elected.

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