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German president vows no let-up against anti-Semitism on visit to Israel (AFP-FRANCE PRESSE) JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 02/01/05 1:28 PM ET)Source: http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=1515&ncid=1515&e=11&u=/afp/20050201/wl_mideast_afp/israelgermany_050201182843 AFP} Agence France Presse AFP} Agence France Presse Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
JERUSALEM (AFP) - President Horst Koehler pledged that Germany would never let up in the fight against anti-Semitism as he began a state visit to Israel with a visit to Jerusalem´s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.

Just days after the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp Auschwitz, Koehler told his Israeli counterpart, Moshe Katsav, that "Germany will do everything in the fight against anti- Semitism."

"The relationship between our two countries will always be something special," he added in a press conference with Katsav.

"The Germans will always have a special responsibility for Israel and its people."

Koehler was speaking before he left with Katsav for a visit to the Yad Vashem memorial on the outskirts of Jerusalem which commemorates the six million Jews who died at the hands of the Nazis during World War II.

Wearing a Jewish kippa, he spent around two hours at the memorial, markedly longer than usual trips by foreign dignitaries to the site, praying in front of the eternal flame in the hall of remembrance.

Two German schoolchildren who were accompanying him on the trip laid a wreath in remembrance of the victims.

Despite the generally warm relations between Israel and Germany that have developed over the past 40 years, Koehler´s trip has still managed to generate considerable controversy in the Jewish state.

Koehler is lined up to address the Israeli parliament on Wednesday, and some deputies have threatened to walk out if he speaks in German.

Anger has focused on the idea that German will be spoken in the Knesset, given the atrocities committed under Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

Health Minister Danny Naveh is one of those who have argued that it is "inappropriate that the German language should be heard on the floor of the Knesset" while survivors of the Holocaust live in Israel.

Katsav, however, paid tribute to the warm relations between the two countries, noting that "Germany in the year 2005 is a true friend of the state of Israel".

Koehler´ visit would help lay the foundations for "another 40 years of strong relations", which began when Asher Ben-Natan, Israel´s first ambassador to Bonn, submitted his credentials in 1965.

Koehler, who was met on arrival at Ben Gurion Airport by Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, was meeting with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Tuesday evening for talks expected to touch on the Middle East peace process.

Koehler said the government in Berlin was ready to do all it could to help make progress between the Israelis and the Palestinians amid a general air of optimism of a breakthrough after more than four years of violence.

"The whole world, especially Europe, should help to bring that peace process to a successful conclusion and Germany, of course, will do everything to help in the peace process," he said

Katsav, who like Koehler plays a largely ceremonial role, in turn said there was a "golden opportunity" for progress in the peace process after the election of the new moderate Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas. (Copyright © 2005 Agence France Presse. 02/01/05)

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