Czech Region Forms Coalition Cabinet : East Bloc: Nine of the 17 members named in the industrial heartland are not Communists.


The biggest of Czechoslovakia's two administrative regions Tuesday announced the country's first non-Communist governing body in more than 40 years as negotiations intensified to form a new Cabinet at the national level.

The opposition group Civic Forum welcomed the regional Czech Lands government's new Cabinet, nine of whose 17 members are non-Communists.

The Czech Lands, which include Bohemia, Moravia and the capital, Prague, constitute roughly two-thirds of the country's population and its industrial heartland.

"We consider it a step in the right direction," Civic Forum spokesman Jiri Diestbier said.

He said Civic Forum had specifically endorsed eight members of the new government, including the Communist minister of culture, Milan Lucas, who is head of drama at the National Theater.

However, Diestbier added that the makeup still did not "accurately reflect the balance of political sentiments in society" and echoed calls for adding still more non-Communists and taking the sensitive Interior Ministry out of Communist hands. The police come under that ministry.

The country's other region, Slovakia, remains under Communist control.

Both regional and national-level Cabinets are seen as interim governments responsible mainly for preparing Czechoslovakia's first free elections since the 1940s. The opposition demanded that the elections be held before next July.

While diplomats cautioned against viewing the Czech formula as a direct model for a national Cabinet, they said the new balance represents a significant change by the Communists since they announced their first attempt at a national government last Sunday.

News last Sunday that only five of 21 national Cabinet jobs went to non-Communists in the new government brought renewed mass demonstrations, a deadline of next Sunday for a new government and the threat of a general strike Monday if the deadline is not met.

Talks on a new Cabinet resumed almost immediately.

On Tuesday, a government team headed by Communist Prime Minister Ladislav Adamec met for several hours in Prague with a Civic Forum delegation that included its most prominent figure, playwright Vaclav Havel.

The recently appointed head of Czechoslovak television, Miroslav Pavel, who participated in the negotiations, described them as "very complicated."

Students maintained a vigil Tuesday outside the main government office block in Prague. They held signs and called for the resignation of the Communist-dominated Cabinet.

Civic Forum has asked for a caretaker government made up mainly of professionals and technocrats, while the Communists are attempting to retain control despite the groundswell of opposition to their continued rule.

However, those involved in the talks said that simply finding qualified non-Communists has become a major problem. As in other Communist countries, party membership has been a virtual prerequisite for advancement.

The opposition has also been handicapped in nominating people for key jobs because its leaders have been isolated from the mainstream of society for two decades.

An opposition negotiator said that during talks Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Bohumil Urban complained about the difficulties of finding people outside the party.

"They simply don't know the names," the negotiator said.

When asked about competent people in the small Peoples and Socialist parties, which were allowed to survive as minor parties during the period of unchallenged Communist rule, Urban reportedly said, "You know what we did to them in the last 40 years."

After initially refusing to provide names for possible government positions, Civic Forum has proposed some individuals.

The predicament in part reflects the sheer speed of political change in Czechoslovakia, which in less than three weeks has moved from communism to the present search for a coalition government.

Previously, few in the party hierarchy saw either the need or the interest in contacts outside their privileged circle, while opposition leaders were isolated at the other end of the political spectrum.

The hard-line Communist regime was swept from office by mass protests last month.

On Tuesday, a special parliamentary commission officially blamed the disgraced former party secretary, Milos Jakes, and former Prague party boss Miroslav Stepan for the incident that triggered those protests--vicious police violence against a peaceful student protest in the capital on Nov. 17.

The Czechoslovak news agency CTK quoted the commission as declaring that the two "carry direct political responsibility for the events of Nov. 17. . . ."

Both men were dropped from the Communist Party's ruling Politburo under intense pressure from protesters. Now the commission has recommended that they be stripped of their Parliament seats.

Six senior police officers have also been dismissed, CTK said.

The ramifications of recent events have begun to take their toll on the party itself.

Since Nov. 17, more than 20,000 of the party's 1.7 million members have resigned their membership, including 10% of the Prague party, according to party Central Committee spokesman Jozef Hora.

Last week, the National Assembly voted to abolish the party's leading role in society. The impact of that action is already visible.

Party leader Karel Urbanek's meeting with Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev in Moscow was displayed only in the party newspaper Rude Pravo.

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