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Merkel announces new German defense minister

From Frederik Pleitgen, CNN
German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she has accepted the defense minister's resignation "with a heavy heart."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she has accepted the defense minister's resignation "with a heavy heart."
  • NEW: Merkel appoints Interior Minister Thomas de Maziere to replace Guttenberg as defense minister
  • NEW: Parliamentary whip Hans Peter Friedrich is named head of the Interior Ministry
  • Karl-Theodor Freiherr zu Guttenberg resigned over a plagiarism scandal
  • Guttenberg was a rising star in a party closely aligned to Chancellor Merkel's CDU
  • Germany
  • Angela Merkel

Berlin (CNN) -- German chancellor Angela Merkel reshuffled her cabinet Wednesday, moving Interior Minister Thomas de Maziere to the Ministry of Defense and naming parliamentary whip Hans Peter Friedrich head of the Interior Ministry.

Merkel made the announcement a day after Defense Secretary Karl Theodor zu Guttenberg resigned amidst a scandal involving alleged plagiarism in his doctoral dissertation. Guttenberg had been considered a rising star in Merkel's government.

Merkel said the moves would be confirmed by Germany's Federal President Christian Wulf on Thursday. She described de Maziere as a close personal and political friend, and said she believes he will quickly win the support of members of the German armed services.

De Maziere "will see through the reform of the armed forces efficiently and thoroughly," Merkel promised.

Guttenberg, who had been defense minister since October 2009, said Tuesday he was stepping aside because the controversy surrounding the plagiarism allegation was becoming a distraction.

"When I become the center of attention on the backs of the soldiers who I'm responsible for, then I cannot justify remaining in office," he said.

"Because the German army, the academic community, and the parties who back me are in danger of being damaged, I am taking the step that I would expect others to take," he concluded.

Merkel said Tuesday she had "accepted Karl-Theodor's resignation with a heavy heart."

Guttenberg, 39, is a member of the Christian Social Union party, which is closely allied with Merkel's Christian Democratic Union. He studied law and politics in Bayreuth and Munich, according to his official biography.

Bayreuth University is investigating whether Guttenberg's alleged plagiarism was intentional, university president Rudiger Bormann said Tuesday.