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Report: Kohl To Pay Back Millions

March 1, 2000

BERLIN (AP) _ Helmut Kohl is raising millions to help his party pay fines for illegal financing under his leadership, a magazine reported Wednesday, even as pressure grew for the former chancellor to retire from politics completely.

Kohl will pay the Christian Democratic party the equivalent of $3 million by April, the business weekly Wirtschaftswoche said, adding that he has already gathered nearly a third of the sum from ``his friends in business.″

That would cover the expected fine for up to $1 million in off-the-books donations Kohl says he accepted in the 1990s. Parliament has set the fine for illegal campaign donations at three times the original amount.

Kohl’s office refused to comment on the report. The Bild newspaper later reported that the money raised by Kohl would be transferred directly by the donors to the party and that the donors would be fully disclosed.

The Christian Democrats were already fined $20.6 million last month for an incomplete 1998 financial report, which was used to set government matching funds for the party.

Kohl’s admission in December touched off a scandal about secret campaign accounts that is dogging the opposition conservatives. His refusal to name the donors has prompted parliament to investigate whether political favors were bought during his 16 years in power.

Kohl, the chancellor who united Germany in 1990 and led the Christian Democrats for a quarter-century, also faced growing calls to give up the seat in parliament he has held since 1976.

Since the scandal broke, Kohl has almost never attended sessions in legislature, or Bundestag. But because his position as a parliament member is elected, the party itself cannot make him quit.

The new leader of the conservatives in parliament, Friedrich Merz, said he would meet soon with Kohl to talk about his seat, but would make no recommendation.

However, Merz told German television that he can’t see Kohl making an appearance again in the Bundestag. Deputy party chairwoman Annette Schavan openly urged Kohl on Wednesday to give up his seat.

Gudrun Kopp, a member of the pro-business Free Democrats, said Kohl’s absence from parliament for most of the last three months meant Germans had wasted about $30,000 on his salary and office expenses.

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