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Sirens wailed, horns honked and bells pealed at noon Monday in Prague and other cities to mark a dramatic opposition victory that ended the Communists' 41-year domination of the government.

Also Monday, army units began pulling down the Iron Curtain border with neutral Austria and Prague radio reported that Pacem Im Terris, the state-controlled organization of Roman Catholic clergy, will shut down.The organization was viewed by indepedendent priests and bishops as a tool of the Communists, and Pope John Paul II declared it illegal several years ago. Several ranking figures in Pacem im Terris were dismissed last week after being accused of cooperating with the secret police.

On Sunday, in his last act as president, Gustav Husak swore in a Cabinet whose members include people he had jailed or stripped of all but the most menial jobs. The new Cabinet gave the country its first government dominated by non-Communists since 1948.

Monday's three-minute demonstration took the place of a general strike called off Sunday by opposition leaders after their historic success in overturning Communist domination of the government.

Around Prague's Wenceslas Square, the site of huge pro-democracy protests the last three weeks, thousands of Christmas shoppers and workers on lunch break joined in the three-minute demonstration of support, ringing tiny bells or shaking sets of keys.

On nearby Old Town Square, the deep gong of the bells from Tyn Church echoed off the ancient buildings. Above a large Christmas tree, young people leaned out of a third-floor window as the bells and sirens sounded.

"This is the end of communism," said Jana Navara, a 27-year-old actress, ringing a brass chime in Old Town Square.

Czechoslovak army units began pulling down barbed wire fencing along a 20-mile stretch of its border with Austria. After the first stretch of the fence was cut away and rolled up, officials from both countries met on the open border near the Austrian town of Wullowitz to shake hands.


SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) _ Communist Party chief Petar Mladenov Monday proposed May as the date for Bulgaria to hold its first democratic elections since the Communists consolidated power 43 years ago.

He also met another key demand of the nation's growing pro-democracy movement by proposing that a new constitution be adopted by the end of 1990, the state news agency BTA said.

Mladenov said an extraordinary congress of the Communist Party should be held on March 26. A regular party congress had been scheduled for 1991, then advanced to December 1990.

Mladenov made the proposals at a meeting of the party's policy-setting Central Committee and their acceptance appeared likely.

About 5,000 people held a silent vigil in 14-degree temperatures earlier in the day outside party headquarters to show the Communist leadership the people were watching its work, according to organizers.

Also Monday, the municipal court in Sofia approved the registration application of Ecoglasnost, making the environmental organization Bulgaria's first legal independent political group.

On Sunday, more than 50,000 people chanted "Democracy!" and applauded demands for the Communist leadership to quit. It was the biggest rally of its kind since Bulgaria's pro-democracy movement began less than a month ago and since the party took control of the nation.


EAST BERLIN (UPI) _ East Germany's ruling Communist Party has relinquished its claim to absolute power and expects to get only 20 percent of the vote in national elections, the new leader of the ailing party said.

"But I cannot imagine that we will disappear entirely as a political force," party boss Gregor Gysi said in an interview with the West German Bild daily, released Sunday in advance of publication.

"It is a question of the claim to absolute power. We have given that up," said Gysi, 41, who was elected chairman of the party Saturday morning at a marathon all-night congress held in an effort to restore some of the communists' crumbling authority.

Delegates at the often stormy 18-hour meeting agreed to drastically reform party policies and called for an end of the hard-line communism that had been the state's trademark until the downfall of former leader Erich Honecker in October.

In an interview with the West German ZDF television station, Gysi said he expected the party would take only about 20 percent of the vote in the elections, likely to be held in May.

Earlier, party officials said there were only 1.78 million party members left, indicating a defection of 500,000 people in recent weeks.