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German mayors push to keep US military bases

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10:46 CET+01:00
The mayors of Mannheim and Heidelberg who visited Washington this week to rally support to retain US army bases in the southwestern German region say there's a chance they might succeed.

Speaking on Friday after their return from Washington, the mayors said it would be not be easy to reverse a four-year decision by the US to close bases in the Rhine-Neckar region but added that there was no final word on the debate.

“The door isn't closed yet,” said Peter Kurz, mayor of Mannheim.

The two mayors met US defence officials as well as Democratic and Republican politicians to discuss plans by the American army to close bases in the southwestern German region and relocate troops 80 kilometres north to Wiesbaden in Hesse.

The move, which is set to affect an estimated 30,000 US soldiers and their families, is part of an overall US strategy to realign forces abroad, and particularly in Europe, in response to new security threats.

Kurz and his Heidelberg counterpart Eckart Würzner fear the closure of the bases will deal a blow to the Rhine-Neckar region's economy. Würzner said he estimated the region will lose an estimated €35 to €45 million through the move.

But the two said that the severe financial crisis in the United States might force the new Obama administration to rethink the decision to relocate troops.

“After all the move is estimated to cost around a €1 billion,” said Würzner.

The two officials said they were pushing for more support from the federal German government to help them hold on to the bases.

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“Existing locations must have absolute priority,” Würzner said. The US military is not expected to make a decision on the move before summer.

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