Germany's Merkel welcomes Bruni aid petition

Thu Sep 23, 2010 2:31pm EDT
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By Andreas Rinke

BERLIN (Reuters Life!) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel has welcomed France's first lady Carla Bruni to make a personal appeal to the German parliament for aid, despite an initial cold shoulder given to the plan by some politicians.

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert told Reuters on Thursday that Merkel supported Bruni's quest to speak before the budget committee of the Bundestag lower house to seek more funding for the fight against AIDS.

"The Chancellor found this a good idea because Mrs. Bruni-Sarkozy could deliver important arguments," he said, using Bruni's married name.

Officials in Merkel's ruling coalition had earlier said the wife of French President Nicolas Sarkozy wanted to appear before the committee but was likely to be politely shown the door.

Bruni, a former model, hopes to press Germany in her capacity as an ambassador for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, but lawmakers were skeptical, arguing it would encourage other lobbyists to try their hand too.

"I can't imagine she'll be given an official invitation, because that would break the committee's rules," said Norbert Barthle, budgetary spokesman for Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) in parliament.

Otto Fricke, a budget policy specialist from the Free Democrats (FDP), junior partners to the CDU, agreed.

"We mustn't give the impression that celebrity status ensures access to the budget committee," he said.   Continued...

<p>France's First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy gestures during the Millennium Development Goals Summit at the U.N. headquarters in New York September 20, 2010. REUTERS/Eric Thayer</p>