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Pravda's careful editing of Honecker's remarks hints at continued strain

Strains continue between Moscow and East Berlin. In an unusual move, Pravda has been editing and censoring Erich Honecker's statements to make him sound tougher toward the West.

The Soviets first persuaded the East German party and state chief to postpone indefinitely the visit to West Germany he planned for last week. This pulled Mr. Honecker back into line with Soviet policy after months in which he conducted a mini-detente with Bonn even as Moscow was denouncing West Germany and stressing how bad East-West relations were.

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Even Honecker's reneging on his West German visit doesn't seem to have satisfied the Russians, however. In reporting Honecker's routine congratulations on the 73rd birthday of Soviet President Konstantin Chernenko last week, Pravda put some more militant words into Honecker's mouth.

The Soviet party newspaper said that Honecker thanked Mr. Chernenko for his contribution to ''eliminating the danger of war coming from imperialism.'' It further said that Honecker praised Chernenko for his ''strengthening of the tested and true battle-alliance of both parties, states, and peoples.''

Honecker, however, never uttered these words, as the Moscow correspondent of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung noticed. The East German party newspaper Neues Deutschland reported that Honecker spoke much more generally about Chernenko's ''contribution . . . to strengthening peace and ... the fraternal friendship and cooperation of the socialist states.''

Honecker also wished Chernenko ''with all my heart success, health, and creative power.'' Pravda omitted the reference to good health, presumably since it drew too much attention to Chernenko's frail health. Curiously, the paper did not censor any other East European leader.


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