East German chief goes against Soviet policy of confronting West

East German leader Erich Honecker endorsed continued dialogue with West Germany over the weekend. He stressed that East-West German relations have ''great significance for European security and the international climate.''

The Soviet news agency Tass, reporting on Mr. Honecker's interview, conspicuously left out this comment.

In his first direct comment since Pravda denounced current East-West German relations three weeks ago, Honecker said that growing international tensions now ''more than ever'' require efforts to strengthen peaceful coexistence through arms control and disarmament.

Honecker's remarks, made in an interview with Neues Deutschland, were featured prominently on page one of the Socialist Unity (Communist) Party newspaper on Saturday. Without explicitly saying so, they signaled clearly that he intends to go through with his planned visit to West Germany September 26-29.

The East German state and party chief blamed West Germany for accepting new American missiles. - but reiterated his conviction that everyone must now try to ''limit the damage'' to East-West relations following the NATO deployments. (Tass did not report this comment.)

Honecker's views thus contrast with Soviet insistence that East-West tensions now require Soviet allies to heighten confrontation with the West rather than lessen it.

The East German leader did remind his audience (presumably the one in Moscow in particular) of East Berlin's absolute loyalty to the Soviet alliance. As examples, he noted that East Germany is itself proceeding with stationing Soviet missiles as a ''countermeasure'' to NATO's deployments - and that East Germany forfeited going to the Los Angeles Olympics despite its strength in sports.

In line with Soviet policy Honecker further repeated the call for withdrawal of those NATO missiles already in place. If this is not done, he said, the Warsaw Pact would ''take steps in implementing countermeasures.'' He did not require, however - as Moscow does - withdrawal of the missiles before East-West cooperation can continue.

Honecker picked up the recent Soviet charges of West German ''revanchism,'' or desire to return to the borders of pre-war Germany. He did so without the Soviet vitriol, however; he never specified just what ''revanchists'' he had in mind beyond calling them ''influential forces'' and ''ultras.'' And he conspicuously exempted from their number his September host, Chancellor Helmut Kohl, since he said that East Berlin attaches ''great significance to the dialogue with responsible forces in the FRG'' (the Federal Republic of (West) Germany).

West German government spokesman Jurgen Sudhoff welcomed Honecker's comments and said the Bonn government agrees that relations between the two German states are important for European security.

Honecker restated the East German wish list of settling the 90-kilometer East-West German border along the Elbe River, securing Bonn's recognition of exclusive East German citizenship, elevating the present diplomatic missions in Bonn and East Berlin to embassies, and closing the West German Salzgitter center that records East German border guards' shooting of would-be escapees and other crimes under West German but not East German law.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.