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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 February, 2005, 16:30 GMT
Germany's president visits Israel
German President Horst Koehler visits Auschwitz, 27 January 2005
President Koehler took up the largely ceremonial post last year
German President Horst Koehler is in Israel for a politically sensitive trip marking 40 years of diplomatic ties.

He arrived at Tel Aviv airport after midday where he was greeted by Israeli Housing Minister Isaac Herzog.

Some Israeli MPs are threatening to boycott his speech to parliament because he intends to speak in German.

The visit comes days after Mr Koehler attended ceremonies in Poland to mark 60 years since the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz was liberated.

He travelled straight to Jerusalem where he visited Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial to the millions of Jews killed by Nazi Germany during the Second World War.

Language trouble

BBC Berlin correspondent Ray Furlong says the issue of the language Mr Koehler will use in the Knesset on Wednesday threatens to overshadow the content of his speech - stressing Germany's particular moral responsibility towards Israel.

When he attended the ceremonies at Auschwitz last week, he did not make a speech - as a sign of humility from the country that caused the Holocaust.

Israeli Health Minister Danny Naveh has been quoted as saying that it is "inappropriate" for Mr Koehler to speak in German when he addresses the Knesset.

The deputy speaker of the Knesset said it would be "impossible" for him to hear the German language within the walls of the Israeli parliament.

But the office of the German president said "it goes without saying" that Mr Koehler would speak in his native tongue.

Our Berlin correspondent says it has also been pointed out that German was the native language of many outstanding Jews, from Einstein to Mendelssohn.

Close ally

Mr Koehler's predecessor, Johannes Rau - the first German politician to address the Knesset five years ago - also spoke in German.

The German president's visit marks the 40th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

BBC Jerusalem correspondent Dan Isaacs say he can expect to receive a generally warm welcome throughout this, his first visit to Israel as president.

Germany is now one of Israel's closest allies in Europe with both strong political and economic ties and successive German governments have taken significant steps including many billions of US dollars in compensation to victims and their families in acknowledgement of Germany's Nazi-era crimes.

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