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School tones down plagiarism claims against minister

The University of Düsseldorf is toning down its allegations of plagiarism against Education Minister Annette Schavan, according to a German newspaper. Claims she had plagiarized parts of her doctorate emerged last year.

Schavan will be accused of carelessness rather than willful deception, the national daily Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reported on Saturday. However, the university's doctoral committee will continue speak in favor of beginning proceedings to withdraw her degree.

Following discussions within the committee and a statement from Schavan, the education minister has accepted that her work could have broken standard citation rules, the newspaper reported.

In October an audit report certified that Schavan conducted her dissertation with "fraudulent intent."

Accusations rejected

The Christian Democrat (CDU) politician has roundly rejected the accusations against her.

"At no time while working on my dissertation did I attempt to mislead," she said in an October interview with the Rheinische Post newspaper. Schavan published her dissertation on "Person and Conscience" in 1980.

The minister's spokesman declined to comment Friday on whether she would resign. Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) has stood behind Schavan and rejected the idea that she should step down.

"I want the minister to stay on beyond the [September] national parliamentary election," Merkel said in December.

The university will decide on Tuesday whether to open procedures for the withdrawal of Schavan's doctorate degree.

dr/mkg (dapd, dpa, Reuters, AFP)