East German political parties and opposition groups Sunday proposed Dec. 7 as the date for an unprecedented round-table discussion on free elections.
Wolfgang Ullmann, a spokesman for the opposition group Democracy Now, announced the proposal, saying the meeting would be attended by 31 delegates.
The groups said they have not received a formal reply from the Communist-dominated government. The government last week proposed round-table talks but gave no start date.
Such talks would mark the first time that the Communist Party has formally met with the various opposition organizations. It would also signal unofficial recognition of New Forum, the largest of the opposition groups, which now claims to have more than 200,000 supporters in the nation of 16.6 million people.
Moreover, the makeup of the meeting would place the Communist Party in a minority position among the delegates at the round-table talks.
Ullmann said there would probably be two delegates from each of the four smaller parties represented in the People's Chamber (Parliament): the Christian Democrats, the Liberal Democrats, the National Democrats and the Farmers' Party. The Communist Party would have six delegates, he said.
Seven opposition groups would also have two delegates each. The groups are New Forum, Democratic Awakening, Democracy Now, the Social Democrats, the Initiative for Peace and Human Rights, the United Left and the newly formed East German Greens.
Three other places would be reserved for churches--the Evangelical Protestants, the Roman Catholics and the Free Church.
News of the round-table proposal came as the Communist Party pondered the consequences of a decision by the Free German Youth (FDJ), the 2-million-strong young people's branch of the party, to split from the party.
For 40 years, the Communist Party drew from the ranks of the FDJ, whose members were inculcated with the tenets of Marxism-Leninism.
But the FDJ's newly elected leader, Frank Tuerkowsky, who headed the movement in Dresden, has said he no longer views the youth group as the "fighting reserve" of the Communist Party.
Instead, he said, it must "look after the interests of its members in helping youth." In pursuing this goal, he added, the group will be an organization "independent of parties."
He said it is "false" to claim that the Communist youth group spoke on behalf of all the young people in East Germany.
On Sunday, Rainer Appelmann, leader of Democratic Awakening, with a claimed membership of about 6,000, said the Communist Party must change itself and needs an opposition in Parliament.
"No political power on its own can lead the country out of this crisis," he said.
He also called for a confederation of East and West Germany, with West German President Richard von Weizsaecker as its head, since he is "beloved" by East Germans.
In another development, reformist Prime Minister Hans Modrow called for a plan to cut the operating hours of factories using East German brown coal, which spreads noxious sulfur dioxide, as a step toward cleaning up the environment.
Meanwhile, the flow of East Germans to West Germany showed a marked slowdown during the weekend, partly because of snow and freezing weather.