* Kohl says government policy lacks direction
* Dissatisfaction rises with Merkel's leadership
* Grumbling ahead of parliament vote on bailout fund
By Madeline Chambers
BERLIN, Aug 25 Former German Chancellor Helmut
Kohl, a driving force of European integration, has launched an
unusual public attack on Angela Merkel's foreign policy, adding
his voice to a chorus of criticism of her leadership from fellow
Kohl said policies ranging from cooperation with European
partners to ties with the United States lacked direction and
risked undermining German influence.
Kohl's broadside is the latest sign of dissatisfaction with
Merkel, especially her management of the euro zone debt crisis,
from within her centre-right coalition before next month's
parliamentary vote on the euro zone's bailout fund.
"Germany has not been a predictable factor for several years
now -- at home or abroad," Kohl, Merkel's political mentor in
the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), said in an interview
in Internationale Politik newspaper.
"The enormous changes in the world can be no excuse for
having no view or idea where you belong and where you are
As post-war Germany's longest-serving chancellor, the key
architect of German reunification and a major figure in Europe,
the 81-year-old still commands respect in Germany.
He said the EU had to stand by Greece in the debt crisis and
took aim at Germany's decision to abstain in a U.N. Security
Council vote authorising military action to enforce a no-fly
zone over Libya earlier this year.
He also suggested that Germany was losing influence with the
United States, saying he would never have dreamt that a U.S.
president would visit Europe and not stop in Germany.
"We must take care that we do not gamble everything away. We
must urgently return to our former dependability," he said.
In response, Merkel said times had changed.
"Every time has its own specific demands. The
Christian-Liberal government is working to decisively master the
challenges of our time together with our partners in Europe and
the world," she told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung.
Kohl nurtured Merkel's career, promoting her rapidly but she
later challenged her mentor in a scandal over party funding that
tarnished his reputation.
PARTY RIFTS BEFORE VOTE
Kohl's blunt attack, which made the front pages of German
newspapers on Thursday, comes at a tough time for Merkel.
Divisions are growing in her party ranks in the run up to
parliament's vote on the European Financial Stability
Facility(EFSF), to be held by Sept. 23, with lawmakers worried
about the fund's role and that national parliaments may be
The Financial Times Deutschland said on Thursday Merkel had
cancelled a trip to Russia in early September to tackle the
debate within the party over the facility.
Fears are growing that Merkel may have to rely on opposition
support to win the vote, a humiliation that could trigger a
challenge to her position.
The CDU's Wolfgang Bosbach said on Wednesday many party
members rejected the planned changes to the EFSF agreed by
European leaders in July.
He and other senior party members also lamented the lack of
openness from Merkel and Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble in
a Handelsblatt article on Thursday.
"There is much to suggest the CDU's pro-European loyalty is
no longer as fundamental as it used to be," said Deutsche Bank
economist Barbara Boettcher in a note this week.
Even cabinet minister Ursula von der Leyen, once close to
Merkel, caused embarrassment this week by unexpectedly weighing
into a debate about guarantees for Greek aid .
On top of that, conservative President Christian Wulff
questioned the legality of the European Central Bank's bond
buying programme -- a decision taken with the tacit approval of
European governments, including Germany .
Opinion polls show growing public dissatisfaction with
Merkel and declining support for her coalition with the Free
Senior Social Democrat (SPD) Thomas Oppermann said his party
would not help Merkel in the EFSF vote. The SPD was not there to
support a chancellor hold office if she had lost the confidence
of her own party, he told ZDF television.
(Additional reporting by Annika Breidthardt; Reporting By
Madeline Chambers, Editing by Noah Barkin and Elizabeth Piper)