* Interior minister tipped as likely successor
* Schaeuble hints he is feeling the pressure
By Dave Graham
BERLIN, Nov 12 German Chancellor Angela Merkel
denied on Friday she was planning to replace Finance Minister
Wolfgang Schaeuble, who has been under growing pressure to step
down because of concerns his health is interfering with the job.
Speaking to German television ARD at a meeting of the Group
of 20 economic powers in Seoul, Merkel rejected a newspaper
report that she was preparing a cabinet reshuffle.
"I have worked together with Wolfgang Schaeuble here
excellently and intend to continue to do so," she said.
Business daily Handelsblatt said that Merkel was lining up
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere as a replacement, and that
she planned to float the idea when her conservative Christian
Democrats (CDU) hold a party congress from Nov. 14-16.
The paper quoted an unnamed member of the CDU leadership as
saying time was running out for the 68-year-old Schaeuble.
"The question is no longer whether Wolfgang Schaeuble is
replaced, it's 'When is the right moment?'," the official said.
Schaeuble, a former CDU leader, has been wheelchair-bound
since he was shot by a mentally ill man in 1990.
He recently returned from a lengthy stay in hospital and
created a media sensation last week when he gave his spokesman a
verbal dressing down in front of the media.
A video of the incident became a hit on Youtube and the
spokesman resigned, fuelling fresh criticism of Schaeuble and
talk that he could be heading for the exit. [ID:nLDE6A80ZF]
Schaeuble himself hinted to Deutschlandfunk radio on Friday
that recent events had put a strain on him.
"Even a finance minister can get annoyed and be under a lot
of pressure sometimes," he said when asked about the episode.
De Maiziere, 56, is regarded as one of Merkel's most trusted
lieutenants, and deputised for Schaeuble earlier this year when
Berlin agreed to sign up to a 750 billion euro emergency package
hastily assembled in Brussels to support the euro.
Once finance minister in the state of Saxony, De Maiziere
was touted as a potential head of the German Finance Ministry in
the discussions that lead to Schaeuble's appointment last year,
when Merkel won a majority for a centre-right government.
A former head of Merkel's chancellery, De Maiziere is
renowned for keeping a low profile in government, though he has
risen to greater prominence in recent weeks during the media
coverage of a string of terror alerts in Europe.
Daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung devoted all of its third page to
De Maiziere and to Schaeuble's possible departure.
"If Wolfgang Schaeuble were to give up his office as finance
minister, it's pretty certain his successor would be called De
Maiziere," the paper wrote.
Nonetheless, Schaeuble is highly respected and one of the
most experienced figures in German politics, making it unlikely
that Merkel would force him out of office, analysts say.
To avoid this, as Handelsblatt itself conceded, Merkel must
hope that the minister chooses to depart of his own accord.
(Additional reporting by Sarah Marsh)