Source AP ©

Germany's Chancellor hopeful of toughening terror laws

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel said she is optimistic that Germany will draw up new anti-terror measures, arguing for a combination of "freedom and security" as a new poll suggested her party may be benefiting from last week's foiling of an alleged bomb plot.

German officials are moving toward making training at a terror camp a crime following last week's arrest of three alleged Islamic radicals, believed to have undergone training in Pakistan, for planning to bomb U.S. and other facilities in Germany.

However, the conservative Merkel's left-right coalition remains divided over her party's calls for quick approval of proposals giving police greater powers to snoop on Internet users - including letting police send "Trojan horse" software in fake e-mails. That would permit searches of terror suspects' hard drives without their knowledge.

"We know that, perhaps this week, there was supposed to be a terrible attack in Germany," Merkel said during a speech to parliament.

"I am optimistic that we will succeed in putting into a bill what the Federal Crime Office needs to fight terrorism - and I won't hide the fact that, for me, online searches belong to that as well," she told lawmakers.

Members of the center-left Social Democrats - who form half of Merkel's governing coalition - have argued that permitting increased online searches could be an invasion of personal privacy, and oppose rushing through legislation.

The searches have been championed by Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, a member of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union.

"I recommend holding this discussion in a climate in which we do not open false fronts, but instead all decide together for freedom and security in equal measure," Merkel said.

"But I think we should bear in mind that there must be no spheres in this society where the security authorities have no possibility to intervene - naturally, always in a constitutional way."

The Social Democrats' leader in parliament, Peter Struck, said the legal framework must first be clear - but "if it is necessary to fight terrorist activities, we are not against online searches."

Merkel's party has long benefited in polls from the chancellor's assured performance on the international stage, while the Social Democrats - who led Germany's previous government - have lagged as they struggle to energize core left-wing supporters.

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