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Kohl Admits Problems but Asks Reelection

September 14, 1993|DEAN E. MURPHY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

BERLIN — With his party's popularity plummeting and Germans grumbling about the strains of unification, Chancellor Helmut Kohl unofficially launched his reelection bid Monday by acknowledging the country's problems but assuring Germany that it is still better off than most of the world.

In a wide-ranging opening address to the annual convention of his ruling Christian Democratic Union, Kohl was unwilling to allow the growing burdens of unification--including high unemployment and government indebtedness--to overshadow his party's most cherished accomplishment.

"We still have a long stretch of road ahead of us," said Kohl, whose coalition government brokered unification three years ago. "But we will overcome our economic and social problems, even if they last longer and cost more than most of us, including me, anticipated."

Appearing confident and relaxed, Kohl spoke from a podium framed by a backdrop proclaiming in block letters, "We Protect Germany's Future." About 1,000 delegates from across the country are attending the two-day session, which will define the themes of the upcoming election season.

A yearlong marathon of local, state and federal votes begins next week in Hamburg and ends in October, 1994, with the nationwide Bundestag (Parliament) elections. During that time, Germans will also get a new president and choose representatives to the European Community.

In setting the tone for the session, Kohl insisted that his party offered a middle road between the left and right in Germany. But his remarks focused largely on issues of law and order, tough educational standards, "old-fashioned" values and hard work, indicating that his party will cling to largely conservative themes.

In one of several references to Germany's troubled past, Kohl vowed to fight extremists from both the far right and left, pledging not to repeat the mistakes of the Weimar Republic, which gave rise to Adolf Hitler.

"Bonn--and I say this here in Berlin--is not Weimar," Kohl said.

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