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FRANKFURT, Germany- (AP) - A day after Helmut Kohl was declaredinnocent for his role in a party financing scandal, severalChristian Democratic Union lawmakers were calling called for theex-chancellor to resume the post of honorary chairman.

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March 4, 2001 


"The party now should take a step toward Kohl and propose him again for the honorary chairmanship," Erika Steinbach, a Christian Democrat lawmakers told the Bild daily in its Saturday edition.

On Friday, state prosecutors ordered the former party leader to pay a 300,000 mark (dlrs 140,000) fine after a 13-month criminal investigation into possible breach of trust charges linked to Kohl's acceptance of illegal donations. Once paid, Kohl will be legally cleared of guilt based on the evidence.

"It would be a very big gesture to ask Kohl to take up the honorary chairmanship again," Karl-Heinz Scherhag told Bild. "He has earned it."

Kohl was pressured to give up the symbolically weighty honorary position when prosecutors launched the probe in January 2000, after he admitted accepting off-the-books campaign money when he was chancellor and leader of the Christian Democratic party in the 1990s.

Many critics of Kohl assailed the moral legitimacy of the Bonn state court's ruling. They charged it was bought and pledged to pursue a parliamentary inquiry examining alleged kickbacks during Kohl's 16 years in power.

Kohl's lawyer, Stephan Holthoff-Pfoertner, said the former chancellor would pay. Kohl's office said the former chancellor would have no comment.

If tried and convicted, Kohl would have faced up to five years in jail and a possible fine, although the court said he likely would have gotten off a penalty equal to the deal cut with prosecutors.

In months of legal maneuvering, Kohl attempted to stave off further damage to his legacy as one of his nation's most respected postwar statesmen and the chancellor who united Germany in 1990.

But judicial investigations into other scandal figures continue, and government lawmakers are pursuing allegations that Kohl sold government favors during his years in power from 1982 to 1998 - which Kohl denies.

Still, Kohl, 70, outfoxed his political enemies in the Bonn case.

To deflect potential criminal charges for causing financial damage to his party, he privately raised millions last year to pay back fines that parliament imposed on the Christian Democrats for some 2 million marks (dlrs 1 million) in anonymous donations he accepted in the 1990s.

Kohl has three months to pay the fine - half to charity, the other half into public coffers.

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