East Germany's new leader, Egon Krenz, spoke to Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev by telephone Saturday and received the Kremlin leader's personal congratulations on his new post.
ADN, the official East German news agency, reported that the two leaders talked for the first time since Krenz replaced Communist veteran Erich Honecker on Wednesday. Krenz, a reputed hard-liner like Honecker, apparently took a moderate line with Gorbachev, who in the past had unsuccessfully urged Honecker to consider reforms in his regime.
The telephone call took place at the same time Saturday that thousands of East Berliners were marching silently in a pro-democracy demonstration that ended without incident.
The demonstrators formed a human chain and marched through the center of East Berlin from the Palace of the Republic, the modern seat of Parliament, to the heart of old Berlin, the huge open square known as the Alexanderplatz.
The marchers were mainly young people. They chanted no slogans and carried no banners. They simply walked in silence while police stood by and made no attempt to break up the demonstration.
Meanwhile here in Bonn, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl on Saturday urged the new East German leadership to permit free elections.
"Our compatriots in East Germany must finally be allowed to express for themselves which road they want to take in the future," Kohl said.
"The unity of the German nation could not be destroyed during decades of state division," he said in a speech to an organization of Germans expelled from Eastern Europe after the war.
"Therefore, prospects for self-determination, freedom and respect for human rights always also mean a chance for reunification of our fatherland. It is our national mission to seize this chance."
In his telephone conversation with Gorbachev--the news agency did not say who originated the call--the 52-year-old Krenz, who in his first few days as leader has seemed to try to shed his Communist hard-liner image, received an invitation to visit the Soviet Union in the near future.
The 77-year-old Honecker, who stepped down because of ill health and his failure to control a crisis that in recent weeks spurred tens of thousands of East German citizens to find refuge in the West, was not personally close to Gorbachev. More than once he said publicly that the kinds of reforms that Gorbachev is undertaking in the Soviet Union are not necessary in East Germany.
According to ADN, Krenz appeared to be more sympathetic to Gorbachev's position on political and economic changes than Honecker.
ADN quoted Krenz as saying: "The experiences of the Soviet Communists in the restructuring in their country are also significant for the GDR (German Democratic Republic, East Germany's formal name)."
In reply, Gorbachev was quoted as telling Krenz: "The most important thing is the strengthening of socialism and the safeguarding of peace."
The news agency said that Krenz accepted Gorbachev's invitation to visit the Soviet Union and that, in Moscow, he would gain an understanding of Soviet developments and outline his own plans for the future course of East Germany.
Krenz, said ADN, told Gorbachev that he would speak about "the policy of renewal and continuity in East Germany."
According to reports from East Berlin, the city's Communist Party chief, Guenter Schabowski, met several hundred demonstrators on the street outside the Palace of the Republic before Saturday's protest and tried to persuade the young people not to march.
"This is not the way to go about things," he told the gathering.
The demonstrators paid him no heed, and, as they moved away, Schabowski reportedly placed his arms across a man's chest as if to dissuade him from marching.
"Leave me alone," said the East Berliner, and walked off with the demonstrators.