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Germany's Merkel optimistic about toughening terror laws

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

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.

A survey by the Forsa institute for the weekly Stern, released Wednesday, put support for the CDU and its Bavaria-only sister party, the Christian Social Union, at 40 percent - up two points from a week earlier and their best level in a poll by the agency since early last year.

"The success in the investigation against Islamist terrorists in Germany has stabilized CDU and CSU voters," said Forsa chief Manfred Guellner. The survey of 2,501 people was carried out Sept. 3-7 - a period that included the Sept. 4 arrests.

The poll put support for the Social Democrats at 25 percent, down one point. The survey gave a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

On Tuesday, the Interior Ministry said an Islamic militant group, the Islamic Jihad Union, had claimed responsibility for the foiled bomb plot.

It said the group planned to target the U.S. military's Ramstein air base, as well as U.S. and Uzbek consular facilities in Germany, and sought to force the closure of an air base in Uzbekistan that supports Germany's mission in Afghanistan.

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