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Hollande's plane struck by lightning en route to Germany to meet Merkel (+video)

A quick trip to Germany is not unusual for a new French president. But François Hollande will bring a radically changed agenda when he meets Chancellor Merkel today.

By Correspondent / May 15, 2012

New French president François Hollande waves out of a sunroof as he rode up the Champ-Elysses avenue after the presidential handover ceremony, Tuesday, May 15, in Paris.

Michel Euler/AP

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Berlin

BREAKING NEWS UPDATE AT 1:05 p.m. EST:

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PARIS (Associated Press) – French officials say that new President François Hollande's plane was hit by lightning en route to Berlin. They say no one was hurt but that the plane returned to Paris as a precaution.

French Defense Ministry spokesman Gerard Gachet said the Falcon 7X aircraft was struck by lightning shortly after take-off today, and returned to the Villacoublay air base for inspection.

Defense officials say the president and his entourage were transferred to another aircraft, a Falcon 900, and took off shortly thereafter.

Hollande took office earlier today. He is due to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss Europe's financial crisis.

ORIGINAL STORY CONTINUES BELOW:

It is not unusual for the French president's first foreign trip to take him to Berlin. When the conservative Nicolas Sarkozy was elected in 2007, he wasted no time, traveling to Germany to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel on the day of his inauguration. His successor, the socialist François Hollande, will do the same today, but the context of the meeting could hardly be more different.

Five years ago, Mr. Sarkozy called the German-Franco friendship “holy,” but this time Paris has sent frosty messages ahead of the new president.

"Merkel cannot be the sole decider of Europe's fate based on German interests," Mr. Hollande’s spokesman Benoit Hamon said on France 3 television on May 13. "We did not vote for there to be a president of the European Union named Mrs. Merkel who decides on the fate of all others."

These are uncharacteristically harsh words between Germany and France. They refer to Merkel’s insistence that austerity is the basis for solving the ongoing debt crisis in the eurozone – a course against which Europe, including France, is increasingly pushing back. Reacting to French demands to relax her position on saving money and put more emphasis on growth measures, Merkel told the German parliament last week that she had no intentions of changing tack.

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