BERLIN (AFP) - Germany's former defence minister on Wednesday took an unusually undiplomatic parting shot at allies France and Britain, saying Berlin had met its responsibilities when it came to overseas military operations.
Mr Thomas de Maiziere, seen as a close ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, told a military ceremony marking his departure from the ministry that "Germany has no lessons to take from anyone in Europe on how to organise its military interventions. Not even from France or Britain."
"When it comes to international engagements, we have several times been more involved than France," he said in an apparent reference to the Nato-led operation in Afghanistan where Germany contributes the third most troops behind the United States and Britain.
"Germany does its duty, even when the domestic political situation is difficult. No German government has suffered a defeat on a vote to approve military intervention," he added, in a veiled swipe at British Prime Minister David Cameron's defeat in parliament over possible action in Syria.
"I might not have said this when I was minister of defence, but I thought it," he said to applause and laughter from the crowd.
"When I was a serving defence minister, I sometimes had to hold back in what I was saying. Now, I don't have the same impediment," added the politician from Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats.
Mr De Maiziere held the post of defence minister for two and a half years in Dr Merkel's previous coalition government, during which time Berlin sometimes frustrated its traditional allies with an apparent reticence in foreign and defence policy.
This frustration reached its height in 2011 when Berlin abstained in a United Nations vote on international intervention in Libya.
Mr De Maiziere's replacement as defence minister is Ursula von der Leyen - the first woman to hold the job in the history of Germany - who is seen as a possible successor to Merkel herself.
Mr De Maiziere has been appointed interior minister in the new Merkel government.