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Sources: Honecker Surgery Reportedly Fails

August 30, 1989

BONN, West Germany (AP) _ A gall bladder operation on 77-year-old East German leader Erich Honecker reportedly failed, indicating he remains seriously ill, West German security sources said today.

In West Berlin, city officials said they have learned Honecker will not be attending the Leipzig trade fair on Sunday as had been planned.

Honecker underwent a gall bladder operation two weeks ago. The East German government said on Aug. 24 he was ″continuing on the road to recovery.″

But the Hessicher Rundfunk radio today said the West German government has received intelligence information indicating Honecker’s condition is more serious than official East German reports suggest.

Government security sources confirmed the radio report but would provide few details.

According to the sources, Honecker’s surgeons were forced to abandon the gall bladder operation ″because of the condition of the tissue.″

The information was relayed to the West German government by the country’s intelligence service, the sources said. There were no further details. The sources spoke on condition of strict anonymity.

Honecker, who turned 77 on Friday, has not been seen in public since his operation.

Werner Kohlhoff, spokesman for the West Berlin government, said West Berlin Mayor Walter Momper had hoped to meet with Honecker at the Leipzig fair but that city officials have learned the East German leader will not be there.

East Germany’s leadership attaches enormous prestige to the Leipzig trade fair and Honecker traditionally opens the biannual international event.

The operation was the second time this summer Honecker was hospitalized.

Illness forced him to leave the Warsaw Pact summit in Bucharest on July 8 before its conclusion, and the official East German media later announced he was in a hospital for problems related to gallstones.

He was released the following week, but he looked frail and tired during a public appearance.

The East German leader has ruled the country of 16.6 million people since 1971, and he supervised the building of the Berlin Wall 10 years earlier.

Honecker has refused to adopt Kremlin-style political reforms, a factor in the recent surge of legal and illegal refugees from East Germany to the West.

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