BONN, Germany -- Parliamentarians Thursday issued passionate pleas for their choice of the future seat of Germany's government, with Chancellor Helmut Kohl arguing strongly in favor of Berlin over Bonn.
Kohl said that although he cherished Bonn, it was now essential that the government should move to the metropolis that has come to symbolize German unity. A decision by parliament on the seat of government was expected Thursday evening.
'Berlin has an important geopolitical function and Berlin is a good location for that (function),' Kohl said. 'And that's why I am voting for Berlin.'
The chancellor recalled celebrations that marked the Oct. 3, 1990, merger of East Germany and West Germany into a single nation after 40 years of division.
'When we stood in front of the Reichstag in that unforgettable night of German unification, of course it was clear to me that I am for Berlin,' Kohl said.
The odds appeared to be in favor of keeping government and parliament in Bonn, which was the capital of West Germany. However, it simply wasn't known for sure the way the vote would go.
Willy Brandt, the former Social Democratic chancellor and longtime mayor of Berlin, said that a vote in favor of Berlin would give the German people a real chance to overcome their four decades of division.
'Germany will not remain the east of the West, it is in the center of Europe and Berlin is well-situated for that,' Brandt said.
In an ironic comparison, Brandt pointed out that when the German occupation of France ended in World War II, Paris again became the seat of government, rather than Vichy -- which had been the wartime capital of unoccupied France andheadquarters of French collaborationist authorities.
Brandt's remark drew both catcalls and cheers from deputies.
The wrangling, disputes and attempts at compromise about the Bonn-or- Berlin question continued until the very last minute, almost one year after the bitter battle of words over a capital started.
Leading political parties earlier rejected a last-minute compromise proposal that, in essence, simply suggested parliament should decide to postpone the decision by several years.
A total of 120 parliamentarians were allowed 15 minutes each to address the Bundestag -- the parliamentary house of representatives -- in Thursday's debate.
'One can understand that there are plenty of emotions, that there is much passion on the issue,' said Wolfgang Thierse, an eastern German member of the Social Democratic Party, one of the first delegates to address the Bundestag.
Delegates will have to vote on five proposals, including one calling for a move to Berlin soon and another to keep the government and the Bundestag in Bonn.
A proposal presented by the Party of Democratic Socialism -- the reformed East German Communists -- calls for government and all parliamentary institutions to Berlin immediately.
One proposal said the Bundestag should be in one city and the government in the other and the final proposal simply rejects this concept.
Opponents of a move to Berlin say it would be a waste of money at a time when the government was already battling to meet the costs of rebuilding eastern Germany.
Berliners say theirs is a world-class metropolis and its situation -- enclaved in what used to be East Germany -- would help attract foreign investment for the east.
Bonn residents were nervously optimistic about the outcome of the vote.
Virtually every bar owner has put up some form of pro-Bonn decoration and has stocked up on beer, getting ready for a huge victory celebration.
'Unroll a Berlin flag if you want, we'll still win,' a confident waiter told a patron at Bonn's Gambrinus bar, patronized by politicians.