* German media slam Schaeuble's game-playing in Bundestag
* Spokesman says minister working tirelessly on Germany's
* Media reaction underlines German unease over Greek bailout
By Erik Kirschbaum
BERLIN, Feb 29 German Finance Minister
Wolfgang Schaeuble was criticised on Wednesday for playing
Sudoku on a small computer during a crucial parliamentary debate
on Greece, becoming a lightning rod for the growing opposition
in Germany to the latest bailout.
His spokesman defended Schaeuble against charges of
arrogance for playing the numbers puzzle while on the government
bench during the debate, saying he had worked tirelessly for 10
straight days on behalf of German interests.
Schaeuble has been one of the most popular members of
Chancellor Angela Merkel's government for his no-nonsense style
and his tight grip on spending, but his arm-twisting of
lawmakers in his party to support Greece has made him more
vulnerable to attacks.
An opinion poll in Bild am Sonntag on Sunday found Germans,
who are making the largest contribution to the euro zone bailout
for Athens, overwhelmingly oppose further aid to Greece.
German public broadcaster ARD first aired pictures on Monday
evening of a smiling Schaeuble appearing to play Sudoku on his
partly concealed computer while a member of the centre-right
coalition spoke in favour of the second Greek rescue package.
"Caught! The Finance Minister was apparently playing Sudoku
during the debate," ARD said. Schaeuble's spokesman Martin
Kotthaus said the network later apologised for airing the
close-up of Schaeuble's computer, a violation of parliament
Bild newspaper attacked Schaeuble for not paying attention
during the debate on the bailout in a story headlined: "During
the 130 billion euro debate in parliament it was - of all people
- Finance Minister Schaeuble who was playing Sudoku."
In an accompanying editorial "You've got quite some nerve,
Herr Schaeuble!", the country's best-selling daily said: "With
all due respect Herr Minister, that was out of line, over the
top and arrogant.
Conservative daily Die Welt defended Schaeuble, who has been
known to play Sudoku at European Union meetings.
"He got caught by photographers playing a numbers game
during the debate - so what?" Die Welt wrote. "He surely read
all the files before breakfast and he already knows his
colleagues' arguments. Why not train the brain instead?"
Merkel's centre-right coalition could not muster a majority
of its own in the vote for the second bailout for Greece but the
measure passed with the help of opposition Social Democrats and
Kotthaus said on Wednesday he did not want to comment on the
incident but then said he and Schaeuble had worked for about 10
straight days without rest before Monday's debate in parliament.
"I find your question a bit curious," Kotthaus told a
government news conference when asked what Schaeuble was doing
during the debate. "If you look back at the last 10 days, we've
been working more or less non-stop since last Monday on Greece,
Greece (rescue) 2, the ESM, the EFSF and other issues."
(Reporting By Erik Kirschbaum, editing by Gareth Jones and Tim