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German university rejects plagiarism allegations against Steinmeier

A university has rejected allegations against a member of Germany's center-left Social Democrats who is tipped for a major post in a future grand coalition. Frank-Walter Steinmeier had been accused of plagiarism.

A committee for safeguarding academic practices said on Tuesday that it had found no evidence of "fraudulent intent or academic misconduct" by Steinmeier, who may become a cabinet minister in Germany's next government.

Although there had been some "technical weaknesses" when it came to citations, the committee ruled that the University of Giessen should not withdraw Steinmeier's doctorate. The investigation, it said, was at an end.

The statement came in response to an allegation by Dortmund Professor Uwe Kamenz, which asserted that there had been "extensive" evidence of plagiarism in Steinmeier's 1991 law thesis. The work had focused on state intervention to eliminate homelessness.

German news magazine Focus cited an email sent by the professor to the University of Giessen, in which he spoke of 60 passages in Steinmeier's thesis that had not been properly sourced. Kamnenz said he had uncovered the alleged plagiarism using special computer software to scan the thesis for text passages lifted from other academic works.

Steinmeier, the Social Democrats' parliamentary leader, was Germany's foreign minister in the grand coalition government led by Chancellor Angela Merkel from 2005-2009.

He and his party are currently in coalition negotiations with Chancellor Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU).

Steinmeier is the latest in a series of German politicians to face allegations of plagiarism.

Education Minister Anette Schavan of the CDU stepped down back in February of this year after the University of Düsseldorf stripped her of her PhD.

Former Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg of the CSU resigned as the result of a similar scandal in 2011. Until then, zu Guttenberg had been considered a potential successor to Merkel in the role of chancellor.

rc/pfd (AFP, dpa, EPD)