German newspapers Friday backed Berlin's expulsion of the CIA station chief in a spy row with the United States, deeming it long overdue, but worried about the health of the transatlantic relationship.
The shock move to ask the US embassy's top intelligence officer to leave the country after two cases of suspected US spying emerged in less than a week was largely applauded by commentators.
"It is an until now unequalled act of protest against American arrogance," the liberal Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper said under the headline "A Break", referring to a watershed in German-US ties.
Ex-chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's "No" to the Iraq war 12 years ago was a "first step in signalling independence towards the big ally. Now comes the next step. It was overdue," the Munich-based daily said.
The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) said Berlin and Washington were "on the threshold of a diplomatic war" but said a "brawl" between the two allies would only please "the enemies of the West".
"Merkel is not Obama's poodle. The message which she sent him now was necessary and without ambiguity. Whether the Americans want to understand it however is another matter," the FAZ commented.
Germany's most widely read newspaper Bild headlined "Merkel Now Takes Drastic Measures" next to a photo of the chancellor.
"Name-calling, broadsides, unkept promises have brought the German-American relationship to its lowest point. It mustn't stay that way!" it said, adding that US President Barack Obama had a "duty" to repair the relationship.
For its part the Berlin-based Tagesspiegel newspaper called Thursday's move a "textbook expulsion" and referred to the "game" of diplomatic theatre played out between states.
"Finally one must say the German government seems to have learned the appropriate rules," it said.
The two suspected spy cases have fuelled anger sparked in Germany by revelations last year from fugitive intelligence contractor Edward Snowden of widespread NSA surveillance, including on Merkel's mobile phone.