Angela Merkel to come to Moscow soon

Chancellor Angela Merkel will travel to Moscow Jan. 16 for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a close ally of her predecessor, according to the German government statement.

Merkel and Putin agreed shortly after the German conservative succeeded Gerhard Schroeder as chancellor last month that they would meet soon as part of efforts to deepen "excellent German-Russian relations."

A brief government statement did not say what the two leaders would discuss.

Schroeder pursued close political and business ties with Russia, drawing some complaints. The two leaders, along with French President Jacques Chirac, also led opposition to the U.S.-led Iraq war in 2003.

Merkel heads a coalition with Schroeder's Social Democrats. Shortly after taking office, she sent Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who was her predecessor's chief of staff, to Moscow.

Putin, who served in the former East Germany as a KGB agent, speaks fluent German. Merkel, who grew up in East Germany, speaks Russian, the AP reports.


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