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Germany President Christian Wulff Resigns Amid Scandals

Christian Wulff has resigned as German president.

Christian Wulff has resigned as German president.

German President Christian Wulff has announced his immediate resignation, amid pressure over a corruption scandal.

In a broadcast from his office in Berlin on February 17, Wulff said he had made mistakes, but had always acted within the law.

He maintained, however, that the corruption allegations had led to a lack of trust among Germans, making it untenable for him to continue as president.

At the center of the scandal is the allegation that Wulff received a low-interest 500,000 euro ($650,000) loan from the wife of a wealthy businessman in 2008, when he was prime minister of Lower Saxony.

In his address, Wulff said the scandal had "permanently impaired" his ability to carry out his presidential duties effectively or "to represent the office of the president in the serious way that is required."

Wulff's resignation comes a day after prosecutors in Hanover, Lower Saxony, asked parliament to lift his immunity from prosecution -- an unprecedented move against a German president.

Major Distraction For Merkel

The Bundestag's committee on parliamentary immunity was expected to consider the request at a session starting later this month.

The head of state’s role is largely ceremonial in Germany.

But analysts say Wulff's resignation creates a major domestic distraction for Chancellor Angela Merkel as she attempts to steer Germany through the eurozone debt crisis.

Merkel, who has cancelled a planned visit to Italy to deal with the presidential crisis, said she accepted his resignation "with respect but also with regret."

"Christian Wulff during his term has committed himself with all his energy to a modern and open Germany," she said. "He has offered us important impulses and made clear that the strength of this country is in diversity."

Merkel had fought to get Wulff, an ally in her centre-right Christian Democrat party (CDU), appointed as president in 2010.

Reports say a special parliamentary assembly made up of lower-house lawmakers and representatives of Germany's 16 states will have to elect a successor for Wulff within 30 days.

Until then, the head of the Bundesrat, or upper house of parliament, Horst Seehofer, will be acting president.

Compiled from agency reports