Even more personal, I mean. Threatening to introduce an even closer and friendlier trans-Atlantic economic partnership should he not cooperate, German Chancellor Merkel will be pressuring President Bush to take a more active role in reviving the Middle East peace process. The Chancellor represents the standpoint that the United States and Europe will not be able to achieve their common goals in the Middle East unless the United States deals more directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Her one-day visit to Washington today is widely expected to get the so-called quartet (the United States, the EU, Russia and the United Nations) at the center of a revived Middle East peace process again. But a lot of preliminary nagging and badgering behind closed Oval Office doors is also feared by many White House officials; by one big White House official in particular.

“Bush only has himself to blame on this one,” said an empathetic and unidentified German diplomat. “I mean, once you establish a cordial personal relationship like that with certain women, well, you know. They’ve got you, buddy. You’ve pretty much painted yourself into a corner.”

Clearly flaunting her newly-won influence now that Germany has assumed the rotating presidencies of the European Union and the Group of Eight leading industrial nations, Merkel is also shamelessly manipulating her good personal relationship with Bush to get him to do her bidding.

And her veiled threats of “going beyond” simply removing trade barriers between Europe and the US should he fail to step into line, to actually go ahead and “address increasingly important issues in the globalized economy, including patent and intellectual property rights as well as common technical standards”, should he not knuckle under and support her proposal, could prove to be an offer the beleaguered President just can’t refuse.

No wild boar roast has been planned during her short visit to Washington (like the one they enjoyed during the President’s visit to Merkel’s parliamentary district last year in Germany) as the President is currently suffering from a lack of appetite – all day long. A light and vaguely romantic candle-light lunch has been prepared, however.

“Hot damn,” said one White House administrator, loudly grinding his teeth. “If Schröder were still in power, this would be unthinkable.”

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