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Kohl: German unity will happen quickly

Chancellor Helmut Kohl of West Germany, declaring that German unity has "never been so close," predicted Thursday that East Germany's nextgovernment would seek reunification soon after it is elected next month.

Speaking to Parliament, Kohl sought to reassure Germany's jittery European neighbors that they should not fear a single German state.

"In the future only peace shall come from German soil," he said.

The speech was one of the chancellor's strongest yet on the prospects for German unification.

It reflected the buoyant mood here that has followed an agreement Tuesday by the United States, Soviet Union, Britain and France - the World War II allies that defeated Nazi Germany - in which they implicitly accepted German unity as inevitable.

"Since the division of our land we have never been so close to our goal - the unity of all Germans in freedom - as we are today," Kohl said.

The allied agreement, reached at a meeting in Ottawa, set up a procedure for overseeing reunification. In it, the two German states will work out the internal aspects of merger and then sit down with the wartime allies to discuss security arrangements, including Germany's military alliances.

"The goal of these talks has been stated clearly: the creation of German unity," West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher said in a radio interview.

Both Kohl and Genscher repeated that a united Germany would remain a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. In recognition of the Soviet Union's security interests, however, West Germany has said that NATO troops would not be deployed in what is now East German territory.

A West German foreign ministry official described the Ottawa accord as an "overwhelming success" for German foreign policy and said it would lead to a "winding down" of allied rights in Germany, including its former capital Berlin, that have existed since the war.

"The final outcome of the whole process would see a united Germany and a united Berlin, so there would be no room any more for any remnants of allied rights," said the official, who asked for anonymity.

In his speech, Kohl expressed his "firm conviction" that East Germany's new democratic government would have "as its clear goal unity as soon as possible."

The accelerating pace of reunification has aroused the concern of some European countries that fear the economic and potential military clout of a reunited Germany.