East Germans worked out an agreement Tuesday on political unity between the two Germanys for Oct. 14, but it unraveled within hours, adding to the mounting confusion about the unification process.
The brief accord between the major East German political parties appeared to have ended weeks of chaos and bitter infighting over the date for unification.
But, soon thereafter, East Germany's second-biggest party, the Social Democratic Party, backed away from the approval given by its leader in Parliament, Richard Schroeder, and declared that it would not agree to the October date.
It quickly became apparent that Schroeder had agreed to Oct. 14 without consulting with other members of his party in Parliament.
Schroeder promptly resigned and was replaced by the party chairman, Wolfgang Thierse. Then, after a marathon meeting of the party's 88 members of Parliament, Thierse announced late Tuesday that the Social Democrats would stick with their demand that unification take place earlier, preferably on Sept. 15.
The episode underscored the unpredictable nature of the fledgling East German democracy, which, with little experience and no tradition, has lurched from crisis to crisis in the four months since it was created.
The agreement reached early Tuesday appeared to have been an important concession by the Social Democrats, who had pushed for early unification in an effort to stem the disintegration of the East German economy.
East German Prime Minister Lothar de Maiziere, who announced the earlier accord to reporters in East Berlin, said that 10 of the 12 parties represented in the Volkskammer, or Parliament, had agreed to meet in special session on Oct. 9 to prepare a declaration of unity.
Only the Communists, now known as the Party of Democratic Socialism, and Bundnis 90, a small group that played a key part in last autumn's revolution, initially opposed the move. They wanted unity on the day of the first all-German elections, scheduled for Dec. 2.
Uncertainty over the terms of unity has slowed West German investment in East Germany to below expected levels, and West German government officials have complained that key financial assistance has been seriously slowed by East German bureaucracy.
Political figures on both sides agreed that accelerating the pace of unity would likely help with these problems.
Hans-Jochen Vogel, chairman of the West German Social Democratic Party, and Oskar Lafontaine, the Social Democratic candidate for chancellor in the December elections, issued a joint statement emphasizing the need for clarity in the unity process, but even that indicated a desire to stick with the earlier date.
"We'd have liked it (unity) even earlier," Lafontaine told a radio interviewer.
Some Social Democrats, in both German parliaments, had called for immediate unity. But West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and De Maiziere have resisted the earlier date, claiming that it would interfere with international commitments.
Unity before mid-September would put it ahead of the final round of talks on international aspects of unification, talks involving both Germanys and the World War II allies, the United States, Britain, France and the Soviet Union.
These talks are scheduled for Sept. 12 in Moscow, and a final accord could be initialed there by the six foreign ministers.
Also, West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher is expected to obtain a go-ahead on unification from the foreign ministers of many East and West European countries at a meeting in New York, on Oct. 2, of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. All the countries of Europe except Albania are represented in the organization.