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Minister faces flak over car to Spain

GERMANY'S Social Democrat (SPD) health minister came under pressure yesterday to explain why she took her official limousine, complete with chauffeur, on holiday to Spain where the vehicle was stolen.

Opposition politicians demanded Ulla Schmidt provide details about the affair, which could damage the SPD who trailed Chancellor Angela Merkel's party by more than 10 points in opinion polls in the run-up to a September 27 federal election.

The health ministry issued a statement yesterday, saying an official car and driver were available to Schmidt, and all cabinet members, for business and private use at all times.

"She used the official car several times both on official business and privately on her holiday in Spain this year," said the ministry.

Thieves stole the keys from the chauffeur's accommodation near Alicante, a ministry spokeswoman said on Saturday, adding Schmidt had used the Mercedes-Benz for official meetings to discuss healthcare issues with Germans who had retired to Spain.


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