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News Briefs II

Germans, Czechs Sign Pact Ending Long Territorial Dispute

The Washington Post
PRAGUE

The leaders of Germany and the Czech Republic signed a formal reconciliation pact Tuesday that buried one of the most enduring ethnic conflicts to emerge from World War II and removed a major obstacle to Prague's bid for membership in NATO and the European Union.

The ceremonial exchange of documents between German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus achieved a long-standing German goal of resolving the last territorial dispute resulting from Nazi aggression.

Under the agreement, the Bonn government expressed sorrow for the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia between 1938 and 1945 while Prague regretted excessive brutality in the post-war expulsion of 2.5 million Sudeten Germans. Sudetenland, located in Czechoslovakia along its border with Germany, was ceded to the Nazis in 1938, and its occupants were routed when it was restored to Czechoslovakia after the war.

Both sides, however, chose to set aside the volatile issue of property and compensation that once threatened to scuttle the pact. The relatives and supporters of Sudeten Germans, who form a key constituency of Kohl's conservative ruling alliance, have long demanded the right to press legal claims for family property that was confiscated after the expulsions.

Group Sues Maryland for Ban On Confederate Flag Auto Plates

The Baltimore Sun
BALTIMORE

The Sons of Confederate Veterans filed suit against Maryland officials Tuesday to block the state's revocation of specialty license plates bearing the Confederate battle flag.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, says the revocation violates the group's constitutional rights of free speech and equal protection under the law. The suit names Gov. Parris N. Glendening, Transportation Secretary David L. Winstead, and Motor Vehicle Administration chief Ronald L. Freeland.

The group is protesting the state's decision to recall plates issued to 78 Sons members that contain the organization's logo, a Confederate battle flag. Freeland withdrew approval of the logo Jan. 2 after black leaders complained that it was an offensive and racist symbol of slavery.

The controversy, which attracted national attention, has ignited an emotional debate in Maryland about the meaning of the Confederate flag and its place in history.

In the suit, the Sons say their historical organization has opposed racism and protested efforts by the "Ku Klux Klan, skin-heads' and neo-Nazi extremists, and others who have attempted to usurp the Confederate flag as a symbol of racial hatred."

The Maryland Attorney General's Office, which is defending the state officials, declined to address the suit's allegations. "We haven't yet seen the suit," said Jack Schwartz, chief counsel for opinions, advice, and legislation. "We believe there is a reasonable legal basis to support the MVA's action."