Berlin Wall to get a nip here, a tuck there. Wall's facelift signals an improvement in East-West relations

No, the Berlin Wall isn't coming down. It's being straightened out instead, in the most extensive tidying up since it was built 27 years ago.

It will thereby lose some of its charm, er, character, perhaps.

West Berlin farmers (they do exist - West Berlin is a huge 480-square-kilometer tract of metropolis, woods, and fields) will no longer harvest rye in the southwest exclave of Wustermark.

Members of West Berlin's Sport and Weekend Community 1921 Club will no longer knock on the northwest wall to get East German border guards to open the exclusive little gate for them to pass through to their cottages in the exclave of Fichtewiese.

Other odd nooks and crannies of the wall will also disappear as East Germany cedes 97 hectares (240 acres) to West Berlin and West Berlin cedes 87 hectares (215 acres) and 76 million marks ($45 million) to East Germany and East Berlin.

The exchange, signed yesterday, symbolizes both improved East-West relations and the bizarre ad-hoc arrangements in a city split for a generation by barbed wire and watchtowers.

Before now, fear of confrontation was too great for any major adjustment of the anomalies left by East Germany's division of the city in August 1961. A minor exchange of territory took place in 1972 at the start of East-West d'etente. But nothing followed as d'etente soured.

Now, however, after four years of negotiations, West Berlin will regain half a street in Spandau; Potsdam Square, the natural focal point for Potsdam Street; the Lenne Triangle for building in the city center; the missing segment needed to reconnect a bisected street in the Gropius Settlement of postwar architectural experiment; and other corners.

Welcoming the agreement Thursday, West Berlin Mayor Eberhard Diepgen said it offers ``new opportunities'' for development of the city. East Germany will be able to straighten out the wall, making surveillance easier, and to prevent any attempts by East Berliners to scale the wall to West Berlin.

Although some of the parcels of land to go to the East will be incorporated into East Germany and some into East Berlin, this fact can only be inferred from the written document.

West Berlin (along with Britain, France, and the US, which continue as occupying powers in West Berlin in the absence of any World War II peace treaty and therefore had to approve the swap) refused to accept East Germany's desired wording of ``Berlin, capital of the GDR,'' or (East) German Democratic Republic.

Conversely, East Germany refused to accept any alternative wording.

East Berlin's new pockets of land are therefore simply ``being given,'' without any recipient being specified.

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