Sun, Dec 05, 2010 - Page 6 News List

Sacked political aide becomes first WikiLeaks casualty

The Guardian, KABUL

Political fallout from the WikiLeaks revelations grew on Friday with the sacking of the German foreign minister’s chief of staff, who kept the US embassy in Berlin posted on confidential negotiations to form Angela Merkel’s new government.

Helmut Metzner, an aide to Guido Westerwelle, the foreign minister and leader of the liberal Free Democrats (FDP), a junior partner in Merkel’s coalition, was removed after admitting his role as a mole for the US in Berlin.

He was believed to be the first political casualty in Europe from the avalanche of leaked material which details US officials’ views of Europe’s top politicians.

On Monday, the German news magazine Der Spiegel reported US Ambassador Philip Murphy telling the US State Department how an FDP insider had taken documents to the embassy in Berlin last year that detailed Merkel’s lengthy confidential negotiations with Westerwelle on forming a new government.

The “fly on the wall, a young, up-and-coming party loyalist who was taking notes during the marathon talks” supplied a stream of inside information on the negotiations.

Westerwelle initially insisted there was no mole.

An FDP MP, Hans-Michael Goldmann, told the best-selling Bildzeitung newspaper that a German envoy abroad behaving like Murphy would be promptly “called home.”

He added that Murphy had failed to apologize for the scandal. Merkel’s spokesman said the government had no intention of demanding an apology from Murphy, nor of seeking his removal.

The information that has so far surfaced from the WikiLeaks release about Germany has been more embarrassing to the US than anything else, with diplomats portraying Merkel and Westerwelle in unflattering terms.

It said US diplomats saw Merkel as risk-averse and Westerwelle as largely powerless.

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