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Berlin caught in middle

The Soviet Union is jostling West Berlin, while East Germany is reassuring it. Berliners hope the upshot will be continuation of their own detente despite the deterioration in superpower detente.

The Soviet action was a complaint carried by the East German news agency May 22 alleging a violation of the 1971 Berlin four- power agreement by West German opposition politicians. The East German reassurance came five days earlier in the investiture of a Berlin Roman Catholic Bishop in the presence of West Berlin officials.

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Moscow is charging that speeches by West German Conservative chancellor candidate Franz-Josef Strauss and Christian Democratic Union chairman Helmut Kohl at the May 20-21 CDU convention in Berlin are "absolutely incompatible" with the 1971 agreement. It is asking the three Western powers to ensure there is no repetition in West Berlin of such "crude attacks" on Soviet foreign policy (including presumably, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan).

Such speeches, the Soviet note continues, call into question the whole policy of detente that among other things led to the 1971 Berlin agreement.

As of this writing, the Soviet protest had been publicized only by the East German news agency and had not been received by the three Western powers in Berlin.

In the 1971 agreement East and West muffled their differences by saying that the (undefined) ties between West Berlin and West Germany would be maintained. Under the agreement, West Berlin is not a part of West Germany, and Berlin as a whole is formally administered by the US, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union.

West German political parties periodically meet in West Berlin. In such cases the parties contend they are simply continuing established ties. The Soviet Union formally alleges violation of the 1971 agreement. The argument usually remains verbal and low-key.

It is not yet clear just how much of an issue the Soviet Union will make of its complaint this time. Berliners are hoping it will blow over, and that East German friendliness will prove to be a better gauge of detente in their divided city.

The East German invitation to the West Berlin mayor, legislature chairman, and commandant to attend the investiture of the bishop of all Berlin was unprecedented. (The last investiture was in 1961, long before detente.) The East German press did not publicize their presence, but enough East Berliners heard about it for a small crowd to gather at St. Hedwig's Cathedral and warmly applaud the visitors.

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Unsually, Berlin's new Bishop Joachim Meisner has not been elected chairman of the Berlin Bishops' Conference. The conference chairman is head of the almost 2.4 million Roman Catholics in East Germany and both parts of Berlin. Bishop Meisner will be deputy chairman to Dresden Bishop Gerhard Schaffran and is widely expected to succeed Bishop Schaffran as chairman in six years.

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