FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) _ A member of Chancellor Helmut Kohl's party wants Europe to postpone launching its common currency by three years to avoid hurting stronger EU members, a newspaper reported Thursday.

Kurt Biedenkopf, head of the state of Saxony, was quoted by the newspaper Saechsische Zeitung as saying that launching the euro on Jan. 1, 1999, means that stronger nations will have to support weaker ones.

He advocated starting the euro in 2002 to give Germany time to settle tax and social reforms.

Despite recent pressure from critics, Kohl, who has made the euro a key issue in his race for an unprecedented fifth term, has said the currency union would begin as planned.

Biedenkopf's comments came just days after a group of 155 German economics professors asked for a delay of the euro, saying Europe's economies were not ready. Four other German professors in January filed a lawsuit in Germany's highest court asking for a postponement.

Biedenkopf, a member of the Christian Democrat party, also reportedly criticized EU heads of state as ``negligent'' for not deciding to postpone the euro at their Luxembourg summit in 1997.

The leaders failed to consider the economic problems of individual countries, he said.

In advance of a parliament meeting April 23-24 to vote on Germany's participation in the euro, Biedenkopf urged the government to seek advice from the Bundesbank on which countries are ready for the common currency, the newspaper said.