Chernenko's talk dampens rumor

Konstantin Chernenko, once a prime candidate to follow the late Leonid Brezhnev as Soviet leader, has emerged from his relative obscurity of recent months to give a major speech to Communist Party officials.

He gave the main address Tuesday at a session of the party Central Committee devoted to communist ideology, reports Monitor correspondent Ned Temko. Earlier this year he was absent from public view for two months due, officials say, to illness.

Senior officials have said Mr. Chernenko, long a close protege of Mr. Brezhnev, was given the party leadership's ideology portfolio late last year, shortly after Yuri Andropov got the late Mr. Brezhnev's job as overall party chief.

The fact that Mr. Chernenko gave the main Central Committee speech seemed to dampen rumors, reported in the Western press, that he would retire at the committee session. While definitive word will come only when personnel shifts are announced at the end of the two-day meeting today (June 15), senior officials have also, in remarks to the Monitor, denied the Chernenko rumors.

[In his speech Mr. Chernenko called the Reagan administration irresponsible and aggressive and said it was pushing the world towards an atomic war, Reuters reports.]

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