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Kohl, Gorbachev Mark United Germany

September 12, 2000

BERLIN (AP) _ Former Chancellor Helmut Kohl, whose reputation as a statesman for achieving German reunification has been sullied in a party-funding scandal, got a rare public show of support Tuesday: a warm handshake from one-time Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

Gorbachev, who negotiated the peaceful end of the post-war division of Europe with Kohl and others a decade ago, reached out to the former German leader before speaking at an event marking the 10th anniversary of a historic agreement paving the way for German reunification. It was signed by the two German states and the four World War II victors.

The former Soviet leader lauded the courage and foresight of Kohl and his former foreign minister, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, in pushing for swift reunification while also working to ease Soviet fears that a united Germany could pose a new threat.

``Kohl and Genscher understood our concerns from the beginning,″ Gorbachev told a gathering of politicians and diplomats in a Berlin theater, adding that Kohl deserved respect for his role in ending the Cold War.

The former chancellor has embarked on a modest return to public life, defying pressure to stay out of the limelight until he provides the names of donors in a slush-fund scandal dogging the Christian Democratic Union party he led for a quarter-century, including 16 years as chancellor.

Kohl eased back into the political fold on Monday, attending a meeting of party lawmakers for the first time since setting off the scandal last fall by admitting he accepted about $1 million in off-the-books donations to party funds.

Hauled before a parliamentary panel probing the affair, Kohl has angrily dismissed suggestions the money bought government favors, but has also refused to name the party’s benefactors.

Gorbachev and Genscher spoke amicably with Kohl after Tuesday’s event, organized by Genscher’s liberal Free Democrat on the anniversary of the signing of the so-called Two-Plus-Four treaty.

The agreement between East Germany, West Germany, the Soviet Union, the United States, France and Britain restored full German sovereignty and paved the way for reunification on Oct. 3, 1990.

Kohl refused to attend the official ceremony in Dresden marking the anniversary after he wasn’t invited to speak, though he is due to speak at a Christian Democrat event commemorating reunification later this month.

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