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MERKEL PICKS A TEAM TO GOVERN GERMANY

BERLIN - Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany on Saturday announced a center-right government with her new coalition partners, the pro-business Free Democrats, saying it would "bravely solve the problems that are lying ahead of us."

After a final marathon round of talks that ended four weeks of negotiations, Merkel, who was re-elected as chancellor a month ago without the left-wing Social Democrats as her coalition partners, made a surprise appointment by choosing Wolfgang Schaeuble as finance minister. It is one of the most important positions in Germany, requiring close coordination with the chancellor as well as European and American financial authorities.

Schaeuble, who has used a wheelchair since 1990 when a man who was later declared mentally ill tried to assassinate him, was the interior minister the past four years in Merkel's first term. During that time, he had established close ties with the United States over how to tackle terrorism.

The new foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, who is the leader of the Free Democrats, wants to rid Germany of the remaining American nuclear weapons stationed here, signaling a big shift in relations with NATO and the United States because the issue until now has been largely taboo. Despite opposition from some of Merkel's conservatives, this demand was written into the 120-page coalition agreement.

But the biggest foreign policy challenge for Merkel is expected to be Afghanistan.

The new defense minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, who is a member of the Christian Social Union, the sister party of Merkel's party, will undoubtedly be under pressure from the United States to send more German troops to Afghanistan. Germany has more than 4,000 troops there.

German public opinion is increasingly against the war in Afghanistan. Westerwelle has proposed that this new government discuss a timetable for bringing the troops home.

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