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The BBC's Terry Stiastny
Only mistake was to trust others too much
 real 28k

Tuesday, 30 November, 1999, 17:38 GMT
Kohl donations scandal grows
Helmut Kohl Former leader Helmut Kohl denies receiving any bribes

Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl has admitted he used a system of secret accounts to receive donations to his Christian Democrats party while in power.

But he rejected charges he had been bribed during his 16-year-term in office.

"I regret if this led to a lack of transparency and was possibly in contravention of party financing rules," he added.

It is important to me to take political responsibility for mistakes made during my term in office
Helmut Kohl

Mr Kohl said he had used cash from the accounts to offer financial support to regional branches of the party.

He was speaking after being grilled by CDU leaders over his role in financing practices that came to light during an inquiry into a $530,000 donation by an arms dealer in 1991.

The former leader rejected charges he had been open to bribes from this or any other donor but said he recognised the ensuing doubts over undeclared party finances was damaging to the CDU.

'Nobody enriched themselves'

Mr Kohl declined to answer questions from journalists during a news briefing.

His successor as CDU chairman, Wolfgang Schaeuble, said the secret accounts had been closed in December last year.

"We are quite confident that, if not all party rules were adhered to, that the funds were never kept from the party," he said. "Nobody enriched themselves."

Still influential

Mr Kohl, who turns 70 in April, was Chancellor for five terms until his defeat in elections last year by Social Democrat Gerhard Schroeder.

He still sits in parliament and remains influential as the CDU's first honorary chairman.

He has kept a low profile in the last year, giving only occasional speeches, but his popularity soared during the recent celebrations marking the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Berlin Wall.

Mr Kohl is still widely celebrated as the chancellor who united East and West Germany in 1990.

This financial scandal will have "brought him back to earth a little", according to historian Harald Biermann.

The German media believe it might even end his political life - Der Spiegel magazine has stated that "the Kohl monument is crumbling".

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See also:
30 Nov 99 |  Europe
Analysis: Kohl under fire
30 Nov 99 |  Europe
Kohl's statement: 'I reject all allegations'
 |  Europe
Kohl's mark on history
26 Nov 99 |  Europe
Scandals hit German politics

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