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France Shaken By Suicide Of Ex-Premier

STUNNED by Pierre Bgovoy's suicide, colleagues said yesterday the former French premier was anguished by attacks on his integrity and by his Socialist Party's collapse. In a sign of respect, the conservatives who ousted Bgovoy in March elections postponed the unveiling of a plan to overhaul Socialist economic policies.

Bgovoy, who died May 1, held himself partly responsible for the Socialists' crushing defeat in recent elections.

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But colleagues said he was even more dismayed that his integrity was questioned following a February news report that he received an interest-free 1 million franc ($180,000) loan in 1986 from a businessman later jailed on corruption charges. "It was the injustice and persistence of the attacks," said Laurent Fabius, a former premier and Socialist leader.

Bgovoy insisted the interest-free loan form Roger-Patrice Pelat was legal and entailed no return favors. German Labor Prepares Strike

German trade unions rallied angry workers at dozens of May Day demonstrations across the country Saturday in preparation for a major strike in the east this week.

Franz Steinkuhler, president of the powerful IG Metall metalworkers' union, warned employers at a demonstration in Magdeburg that their decision to topple wage agreements would be thwarted by worker resistance.

The strike was called after employers reneged on contracts agreed to in 1991 that would have boosted east German wages by more than 20 percent from April and brought them up to western levels by next year.

Mr. Steinkuhler warned the breach could have unforeseeable consequences as Germany struggles through the unification process.

Economics Minister Gunter Rexrodt said unions must be more flexible. The ruling Christian Democratic Party said in a statement that the time had come to reconsider social welfare benefits long taken for granted by affluent west Germany.

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The opposition Social Democrats and union leaders, however, called on west Germans to show solidarity with east Germans to fight against cuts in jobs and social benefits.

Talks between employers and union leaders in two east German states ended without compromise, leading to the region's first strike after 60 years of Nazi and communist rule.

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