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Merkel forced to cancel meetings after injuring pelvis in ski accident

BERLIN -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel was injured in a fall while cross-country skiing in Switzerland forcing her to stay off her feet and cancel meetings, her spokesman said Monday, just as her new government got down to business.

Taking reporters by surprise, Steffen Seibert said that Merkel, 59, had cancelled two meetings with international leaders this week and also cut back her schedule for the next three weeks while she recovers.

The chancellor suffered a fractured pelvis which “makes it necessary for her to lie down a lot for three weeks and/or use a walking aid,” Seibert said.

“She, therefore during this time, will concentrate on a few appointments at the chancellery and in Berlin and otherwise do her work at home,” he said, stressing that this did not mean she would be out of touch.

“It goes without saying that as chancellor, she is at work and both capable of acting as well as communicating fully,” Seibert said.

Merkel will lead Wednesday's cabinet meeting, the first of 2014 for her new “grand coalition” government, he said.

But she has had to cancel a planned trip to Warsaw on Wednesday as well as a visit to Berlin by Luxembourg's new prime minister which had been scheduled for Thursday, Seibert said, adding that new dates would be found for the talks.

Moreover, Merkel would not be returning to Switzerland to attend the World Economic Forum in the plush ski resort of Davos later this month, but not due to her accident. The decision to forgo this year's annual meeting had been taken beforehand, Seibert said.

News of the Merkel's fall comes as her compatriot Formula One legend Michael Schumacher remains in a critical condition in a French hospital after a very serious skiing accident in the French Alps on December 29.

Merkel expressed shock over that accident and hopes for his recovery.

'Low speed'

The chancellor was cross-country skiing in the southeastern Swiss region of Engadin, which boasts top ski resorts such as St Moritz, over the Christmas holidays when she had her accident.

After she fell, the injury was initially thought to be just painful bruising, but after her return to Berlin, doctors on Friday diagnosed a fracture in the pelvic area, Seibert said.

“She is now following the doctors' advice in order to enable optimal healing,” he said.

Seibert did not give details about the incident, saying only that Merkel had fallen while cross-country skiing during her holiday, which ended December 30, and adding that he could not say whether others were involved.

However he said it was assumed Merkel was moving at a “low speed”. The injury was kept quiet for over a week until Seibert's announcement at a regular government news conference.

Merkel was sworn in for a third term at the helm of Europe's top economy on December 17 following her conservatives' resounding victory in September elections.

But she was forced to seek a “grand coalition” with the Social Democrats after her previous junior partners, the Free Democrats, failed to win parliamentary seats.

After three months of tough negotiations to form a government, it now faces thorny and pressing issues such as how to handle immigration from poor EU members Romania and Bulgaria, as well as Germany's ambitious exit from nuclear power.

Merkel underwent a knee operation in April 2011 which left her on crutches for several days.

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