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German chancellor urges people to act on child abuse

Berlin, Jan 1 (DPA) Amid New Year’s Eve celebrations Monday evening, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel struck a sombre note with a television appeal for Germans to keep their eyes out for parents abusing children.

“We need a culture of paying attention, not of looking away,” she said in the pre-recorded New Year message broadcast on Germany’s two main public channels.

“We wish we had not had to live through some days of this past year. We are all thinking with horror of the news of child abuse, neglect and deaths,” she told viewers.

The German chancellor called for mandatory medical check-ups for young children and more powers for family courts to make ward-ship orders.

She praised those who worked for children and young people in sports clubs.

The German media have highlighted cases of child abuse through the year, culminating in a mother killing her five young sons in December and police later uncovering a huge, Internet-based network of men distributing images of child sex abuse.

In her address, the chancellor also praised Germany’s economic performance, saying there had been a reduction by one million in the absolute number of unemployed in the country to 3.5 million.

She promised there would be enough apprenticeships and other job training courses for school leavers in 2008.