Germany Defence Minister apologises from German Military

Germany Defence Minister apologises from German Military

Germany's Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen apologized for the tone of her criticism of the military over its handling of a racism case, as she sought to contain a divisive furore in the build up to national elections.

Von der Leyen, from Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling conservatives, earlier this week criticized what she called "weak leadership" in the military after an officer was arrested on suspicion of planning a racist attack.

Soldiers' groups reacted to her criticism with dismay - and politicians, including the leader of junior coalition partner the Social Democrats (SPD), said she also bore responsibility after her three years in the job.

During a meeting with 100 top generals and admirals, von der Leyen said she should have prefaced her remarks by recognizing the "indispensable service" of the 250,000 people in the armed forces.

"I'm sorry I didn't do it. I regret it," she told the officers in her remarks made on Thursday and published a day later by Der Spiegel newsmagazine.

She added that she remained concerned about a culture that had allowed the suspect to continue his career despite racist ideas contained in his master's thesis, and that failed to crack down on hazing and sexual abuse in other cases.

The case has focused political and media attention on fears over racism in the military - and on the minister's own handling of a ministry which has been rocked by a series of harassment scandals, as well as delays and cost increase in big arms programs.

The government's spokesman has come out twice in the past week to state its support for the minister, in the face of the criticism of her comments.