German President Horst Koehler resigned suddenly Monday over what he said was heavy criticism about comments he made on Germany's military involvement in Afghanistan, which he said had been misinterpreted.
Koehler said May 22 upon his return from Afghanistan that "in emergencies military intervention is necessary to uphold our interests, like for example free trade routes, for example to prevent regional instabilities which could have a negative impact on our chances in terms of trade, jobs and income."
He later said he meant the protection of shipping routes along the Gulf of Aden against piracy, for example, and not any reference to Germany's role in Afghanistan. But his comments came in for widespread criticism.
Koehler said the criticism showed a lack of respect for the president's office.
The president's office is largely ceremonial. Chancellor Angela Merkel heads the government and holds the real power.
Germany has more than 4,000 troops in Afghanistan.