BONN, OCT. 11 -- A West German former state premier was found dead in a Geneva hotel room today, 16 days after he resigned in a political "dirty tricks" scandal that has embarrassed Chancellor Helmut Kohl's Christian Democratic Union.
Swiss police said that they could not confirm initial West German news reports that Uwe Barschel, 43, had committed suicide. A reporter for the West German magazine Stern found Barschel's fully clothed body in a bathtub filled with water, with the door to his room ajar at the luxury hotel Beau Rivage, the magazine said.
Police confirmed that the Stern reporter found the body. They said that no blood or signs of violence were discovered. Results of an autopsy were to be released Monday. Barschel's family "ruled out" the possibility that he had committed suicide, the Bonn newspaper Die Welt said.
Barschel, a Christian Democrat, was forced to step down Sept. 25 as premier of Schleswig-Holstein, West Germany's northernmost state, after a press aide accused him of using unethical methods against his Social Democratic opponent, Bjoern Engholm, before a state election on Sept. 13.
Barschel consistently denied the allegations that he hired private detectives to investigate Engholm's sex life, ordered an anonymous letter sent to local authorities accusing his rival of tax evasion and sought to frame Engholm for bugging his office.
But Barschel suffered a setback Thursday, when his party asked him to return from vacation in the Canary Islands to appear before an investigative panel in the state capital of Kiel. The party acted after evidence emerged suggesting that Barschel had committed perjury when he swore last month that he had not known about the anonymous tax letter until after the elections.
The affair has dominated West German headlines for a month, reinforcing an image of the Christian Democrats beset by difficulties and unable to exert strong leadership.
The party has lost votes in four out of five state elections this year, including the one in Schleswig-Holstein. The scandal could lead to new elections there, in which the left-of-center Social Democrats would be favored to wrest control from Kohl's conservatives. Such a result would narrow Kohl's majority in the Bundesrat or upper house, and thereby make it more difficult for his center-right coalition to win approval for legislation at the national level.
The Bundesrat, whose members are selected by West Germany's state governments, is less influential than the directly elected Bundestag, or lower house. But the Bundesrat's approval is required for any legislation affecting the interests of the individual states, particularly tax or administrative laws.
Kohl has not been personally touched by the scandal.
Politicians of all parties expressed shock and dismay over Barschel's death. Kohl said in a statement that he was "deeply shaken" and offered his sympathy to Barschel's widow and four children.
A Swiss police spokesman said the death could have been the result of suicide, murder or natural causes. No suicide note was found, the spokesman said.
The dailies Die Welt and Kieler Nachrichten reported that Barschel had met yesterday with an "informer" and planned to meet him again in the evening to get additional information and a photograph.