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CDU Official Commits Suicide

A senior official of Germany's Christian Democrats committed suicide Thursday in the midst of the campaign funding scandal shaking the party, party officials said.

Wolfgang Huellen, 49, was head of the party's financial and budget section in parliament. He was not a lawmaker.

Huellen was found dead in his Berlin apartment Thursday morning, said Joachim Hoerster, a senior party official. He said police found a suicide note and were investigating.

Hoerster sought to counter speculation the suicide was related to a campaign fund scandal surrounding the party and former Chancellor Helmut Kohl. He said it appeared Huellen had been driven by "personal motives." Huellen is survived by a wife and two children, party officials said.

Christian Democratic leaders called a break in a parliamentary debate that dealt with the scandal to inform party lawmakers of the tragedy.

During the debate, Christian Democratic party leader Wolfgang Schaeuble apologized for the party's practice of accepting campaign funds under Kohl, acknowledging that "laws quite clearly were broken."

But lawmakers rebuffed his attempt at humility and condemned the Christian Democrats and their former chairman for plunging the country into a political crisis. Kohl was not present.

Peter Struck, floor leader of the governing Social Democrats, accused Kohl of hindering efforts to clear up the scandal with his stubborn refusal to identify donors of campaign funds Kohl says he accepted in cash.

"Do your country one last service and cleanse it of the suspicion that shady figures influenced German policy for years," Struck said, declaring the Christian Democrats "morally discredited."

Kohl says he promised the donors anonymity and has no intention of breaking his word of honor. He defended that stand Wednesday during a speech in Hamburg where he was applauded by an audience of business leaders.

The speech came a day after he resigned as honorary chairman of the Christian Democrats under pressure from fellow conservatives trying to force him to name the anonymous campaign donors.

Struck accused the longtime leader of putting himself above the law. "You cannot place a word of honor above the constitution," he shouted.

The scandal exploded last month when Kohl admitted accepting up to $1 million in cash contributions for the party in the 1990s and keeping them off the books.

Schaeuble, a Kohl protege who took over the Christian Democratic Union in 1998, appeared pale and chastened as he acknowledged failings by his party.

"I want to take the opportunity to apologize on behalf of the CDU for the fact that laws quite clearly were broken during its time of responsibility and that we have damaged trust in the integrity of democratic parties and institutions," he said.

He repeated earlier pledges to clear up the scandal "as completely as possible."
But he also upheld Kohl's achievements as a statesman, notably German unification in 1990, triggering catcalls from the government benches.

By Tony Czuczka
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