German Party Chief Steps Down After Spy Charges

EAST GERMAN Social Democratic leader Ibrahim Boehme said yesterday he was stepping down from his leadership of the party until allegations that he worked for the Stasi security police were cleared up. He said he was also suspending his leadership of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in the 400-seat parliament elected March 18 and would not take his place in the chamber until he had cleared his name.

``I am suspending my parliamentary mandate until this affair has been laid to rest,'' Mr. Boehme said after a meeting of the party's leadership. He proposed Markus Meckel, his deputy, as temporary chairman.

In its latest issue, the West German magazine Der Spiegel said two former agents of the Stasi had denounced Boehme as a regular secret collaborator. Boehme forcefully denied the charge in a letter to members of the left-leaning party.

Boehme's decision was a further political bombshell for East Germany, already hit by a series of allegations about other party officials' links with the Stasi.

The SPD finished a distant second in the election behind the Christian Democrats. But the Christian Democrats remain eager to have the SPD in a coalition broad enough to change the Constitution ahead of German unification.

Over the weekend, Boehme, a one-time Communist Party member who became a dissident and resurrected the SPD in East Germany last year, called on parties to stop coalition talks until the Stasi files had been investigated.

Christian Democratic leader Lothar de Maizi`ere, likely to be the next prime minister, has also been accused of working for the Stasi. He has dismissed the allegations as nonsense.

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