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East German Government Resigns, Pro-Reform Marches Continue

November 8, 1989 GMT

BERLIN (AP) _ The East German government resigned Tuesday, a victim of mass emigration and pro-democracy turmoil, and pleas came from within the ruling Communist Party for changes in its top ranks.

More than 100,000 people marched for democracy in five East German cities.

A Parliament committee rejected a draft law allowing up to 30 days of travel abroad just a day after it was published, and said unrestricted travel should be permitted.

The 44-member Cabinet, called the Council of Ministers, resigned jointly, said government spokesman Wolfgang Meyer. The council, led by 75-year-old Premier Willi Stoph, implements policy made by the Communist Party Politburo.

Stoph and several other ministers are Politburo members.

″We appeal to the citizens who intend to leave our republic to reconsider their step once more,″ the council said in a statement. ″Our socialist fatherland needs everyone.″

More than 28,000 East Germans have fled to West Germany through neighboring Czechoslovakia since Saturday - they arrived Tuesday at the rate of 120 an hour. About 175,000, more than 1 percent of the population, have left the country this year by legal or illegal means.

The Council of Ministers will remain in office until Parliament elects a new one, Meyer said, but did not say when that would occur. The party Central Committee was to meet Wednesday to consider further changes.

West German political leaders in Bonn applauded Tuesday’s resignations but said only democratic reforms will quell unrest in the communist nation.

Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s chief of staff, Rudolf Seiters, said, ″If I am correctly gauging the will of the people, they will not be content with a few personnel changes, they will continue demanding a genuinely new political course.″

Volker Ruehe, general secretary of Kohl’s Christian Democrats, said free elections now must follow.

″This move clearly reflects the mounting pressure for real democracy and freedom,″ Britain’s Foreign Office said. ″The government did not have popular support. They have recognized this by resigning.″

Roman Popadiuk, deputy White House deputy press secretary, said in Washington: ″If it leads to a process of reform, it can be a positive development.″

Several Communist Party officials and three small parties allied with the Communists urged the resignation of the Politburo itself, which met on Tuesday.

Leaders ″should resign without any delay″ to make way for a new Politburo and government to carry out reforms, said the newspaper Junge Welt, organ of the Communist youth organization.

Egon Krenz, who replaced his mentor Erich Honecker, 77, as party leader last month, has said five elderly Politburo members closely associated with Honecker will be replaced by the end of the week. Two other Politburo members lost their jobs when Krenz took over Oct. 18.

The Politburo, which normally has 21 members, also discussed an ″action program″ Krenz has said would contain sweeping political and economic reforms.

Guenter Krusche, a senior Lutheran Church leader in East Berlin, called for immediate ″secret and free elections″ for a new government.

About 5,000 people marched in East Berlin on Tuesday to demand free elections and challenge the Communist monopoly on power. Police did not interfere with the protesters, who shouted: ″All power to the people 3/8″

ADN, the official news agency, said 50,000 people rallied in Wismar, on the Baltic coast; 35,000-40,000 in Nordhausen, near Erfurt; and 20,000 in Meiningen.

Guntram Erdmann of New Forum, the largest opposition group, told the Wismar crowd his organization seeks ″peaceful transformation to a democratic state.″

On Monday, 750,000 demonstrators marched, about 500,000 in Leipzig alone.

East German leaders have been promising democratic reforms and freer travel in hopes of halting unrest, but the draft law appeared to satisfy no one.

In rejecting the law in its current form, ADN said, the committee declared: ″The proposal does not meet the expectations of citizens ... and will not achieve the political credibility of the state.″

The panel recommended eliminating the need for exit visas, separating travel regulations from emigration rules, clarifying the access to foreign currency for trips abroad, reconsidering the 30-day limit and changing grounds on which passports can be refused.

It also recommended an emergency Parliament session to find ways of persuading citizens to remain at home. The latest tide of emigration began early Saturday when departure was permitted through Czechoslovakia, the only country to which East Germans can travel freely.

Opening Czechoslovakia created the first free passage to the West since the Berlin Wall was built in August 1961. Authorities have said the route will remain open until a new travel law takes effect.