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German Opposition Party Nominates Woman to Challenge Schroeder

Angela Merkel

Germany's conservative opposition party has nominated Angela Merkel to challenge Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in upcoming elections. A victory would make her the country's first female leader.

Opinion polls indicate Ms. Merkel's Christian Democratic Union holds a strong lead over the chancellor's Social Democrats. The opposition party trounced the Social Democrats during a regional vote, in North Rhine-Westphalia, a week ago, prompting Mr. Schroeder to call national elections a year early.

The vote is expected in mid-September.

Ms. Merkel, who is 50, has pledged to tackle Germany's soaring 12 percent jobless rate. She has also spoken out against Mr. Schroeder's criticism of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Raised in the former East Germany, Ms. Merkel is a physicist and the daughter of a Protestant minister. She has been chairwoman of the Christian Democrats since 2000.

Some information for this report provided by AP and AFP.