* Rare German referendum resolves heated dispute
* New 4.5-billion euro rail station for Stuttgart
By Erik Kirschbaum
BERLIN, Nov 27 Germans in a southwestern
state voted on Sunday in favour of building a 4.5-billion euro
train station in Stuttgart, ending a controversy over the giant
project that helped to push Chancellor Angela Merkel's party out
of power in the state.
Voters in Baden-Wuerttemberg backed by a 59-41 percent
margin the "Stuttgart 21" station that will be part of a
high-speed rail network linking southern Germany, France and
Austria. About 48 percent of eligible state voters took part in
the referendum, a rarity in Germany.
Construction of the station in Stuttgart, the capital of
Baden-Wuerttemberg, had been halted after violent protests a
year ago. Thousands of demonstrators tried to stop the project,
reflecting a wider outcry against politicians in general.
"The state government will accept the will of the people,"
said state premier Winfried Kretschmann, whose opposition to the
new station helped his Greens party to win control of a German
state for the first time last March.
"I'm a bit surprised by the result," he added. "It's a hard
decision. But it's a good day for democracy that so many people
took part in the referendum. We want to use this form of
consulting the public more often in the future."
Kretschmann's Greens had opposed the station while the
Social Democrats (SPD), his junior coalition partners in the
state, had supported it.
The Greens swept Merkel's Christian Democrats from power in
Baden-Wuerttemberg in March, helped by anti-nuclear sentiment
following the accident at Japan's Fukushima complex and by
disaffected voters who believed the Stuttgart station was too
expensive and planned without enough public consultation.
The new centre-left state government agreed to the first
referendum in the state in more than 40 years to resolve the
City, state and local officials spent 15 years working on
the station project. They say it will cut down on travel times
and open up a vast tract of inner city land to developers.
(Reporting by Hendrik Sackmann in Stuttgart; editing by David