The West German government withstood an opposition resolution in Parliament on Tuesday to remove Interior Minister Friedrich Zimmermann because of his responsibility for the current spy scandal.
Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s supporters defeated the motion by the Social Democratic Party to dismiss Zimmermann, whose ministry supervises the activities of the counterintelligence service.
Hans Joachim Tiedge, a senior member of the service who was responsible for hunting down Communist agents, defected last month to East Germany with what was said to be an enormous amount of sensitive information on West Germany’s counterintelligence activities.
Kohl’s Christian Democrats and their allies in the governing coalition, the Christian Social Union and the Free Democrats, defeated the opposition motion by 275 to 214.
A second resolution by the small Greens party to dismiss Zimmermann for not fulfilling his additional duties as minister of the environment was rejected by a vote of 277 to 33.
The vote suggested that the espionage affair may begin to quiet down--unless more spies turn up.
Besides Tiedge’s defection, the past month also has seen the defections of two high-ranking secretaries in government ministries, the disappearance of a Defense Ministry employee and the arrest of a secretary in the office of West German President Richard von Weizsaecker.
Trying to Play It Down
The story has monopolized the front pages of the West German press, although Zimmermann and Kohl are now trying to play down the seriousness of security deficiencies within the government.
In presenting the resolution for Zimmermann’s dismissal, the leader of the Social Democratic Party, Hans-Jochen Vogel, contested the interior minister’s statement that he was unaware that Tiedge was viewed by some counterintelligence officials as a security risk because of his heavy drinking and debts.
“It would be an impertinence toward the German public and toward this Parliament to leave Mr. Zimmermann in office,” said Vogel.