BERLIN — Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl admitted Tuesday that he kept secret bank accounts to finance his party's campaigns, taking responsibility for an affair that may tarnish his standing as a leading European statesman.
After being grilled for three hours by leaders of his Christian Democratic Union, or CDU, Kohl said he regretted a "lack of transparency" but dismissed charges that he had been bribed during his 16 years as chancellor.
"I reject in the strongest terms all the allegations . . . that political decisions made by me could be bought," Kohl said at a news conference.
Kohl, 69, did not say what the source of the funding was or how much was handed over to whom.
The meeting was called after demands arose for Kohl to explain revelations from senior CDU officials that the party used secret accounts to hide campaign donations.
Kohl's tenure, during which he became the architect of German reunification, ended with an election defeat last year. He sits on a parliamentary back bench but remains influential as the CDU's first honorary chairman.
The affair has snowballed from an investigation of tax irregularities surrounding an arms dealer's $530,000 cash donation to the CDU in 1991.
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats said Kohl had failed to fully answer the questions raised and accused the former leader of acting like a monarch.
"Kohl's declaration was unsatisfactory," said Franz Muentefering, general secretary of the Social Democrats. "No one is above the law, not even Helmut Kohl. He may have felt like king of the CDU. But we did away with feudal lords 150 years ago."