Merkel 'respects autonomy' of EU countries to choose leaders

Says leaders give each other 'friendly advice, when asked'

Berlin, December 17 - German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday said she ''respects'' the autonomy of European countries in their selection of leaders. Responding to a question whether she had discussed financial aid to Spain and whether she had discussed the possibility that Italian Premier Mario Monti would run for office in Italy, Merkel said: ''I take my decisions by myself in Germany and I respect that in the countries of Europe decisions are taken autonomously. This goes for decisions regarding financial assistance as well as, obviously, decisions on whether to run for office.'' ''We speak often with the other European leaders and we give each other friendly advice, when we are asked,'' Merkel added.

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