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PARTY OFFICIALS, ACADEMICS CALL FOR E. GERMAN REFORMS

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Leading East German Communist Party officials and academics joined a growing chorus of calls for dialogue and reform amid speculation hard-line leader Erich Honecker may soon retire.

The increasingly vocal appeals for change Thursday, which followed last weekend's massive pro-democracy demonstrations, contrasted sharply with Honecker's repeated defense of the orthodox communist policies that shaped the East Bloc country's 40-year history."It is part of the essence of socialism that it is inseparable from reform processes in all areas of social life," the party's chief theoretician, Otto Reinhold, said in an article published Thursday in East Berlin's Berliner Zeitung newspaper.

"Nothing would be more harmful than signs of stagnation in one area or the other," he said.

But Reinhold, the rector of the Academy of Social Sciences and a senior member of the party's Central Committee, said what East Germany needs is "not reforms for the sake of reforms, but changes which will serve the further development of socialism."

Separately, several academic organizations and personalities closely linked to the Communist Party also issued statements that included almost direct calls for reform.

The presidium of the Academy of Arts called for "an open and public debate" and said socialism "needs public thinking as an instrument and a corrective of its plans."

The Culture Federation said in a statement it was saddened by a continuing exodus of East Germans to the West, which it partly blamed on "enemies of socialism."

Political analysts in Bonn believe Honecker might cite health reasons if he does retire, following a recent gall bladder operation and persistent reports the veteran communist is suffering from cancer.

In a surprise announcement Wednesday, the official news agency ADN said a planned visit by Honecker to Denmark had been postponed indefinitely.

"Things may happen very quickly in East Germany and Honecker probably needs and wants to stay," a Danish foreign ministry official said Wednesday.