NEW YORK, OCT. 1 -- The four principal World War II victors signed an accord today suspending their rights in Germany, so that the nation emerging Wednesday from unification of West and East Germany will have full sovereignty for the first time since the 1945 defeat of Hitler's Reich.
"With these final strokes of the pen, there really ends an era of discord," President Bush said after the signing ceremony. "Germany's day of celebration is the culmination of a year of change that transformed a continent."
Bush's remarks -- and the signing by foreign ministers of the four powers and the two German states -- were prelude to a two-day meeting here of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), which includes 33 European countries, the United States and Canada.
The aim is to prepare for a summit of heads of CSCE member states in Paris Nov. 19-21, and to expand the CSCE structure so that it can play a larger role in shaping post-Cold War European relations.
The United States has said it will not agree to a November summit unless talks underway in Vienna first achieve agreement to reduce conventional forces in Europe (CFE). Calling the CFE treaty "an essential precondition" to a CSCE summit, Secretary of State James A. Baker III asserted, "A strengthened CSCE must rest on a durable structure of military stability. To hold a CSCE summit before we complete a CFE treaty would be foolish . . . "
But foreign diplomats and U.S. officials emphasized a positive view that CSCE is a potentially important factor in Europe's future and that the United States and Soviet Union can negotiate a CFE treaty before Nov. 19.
Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze said, after meeting with Bush and Baker, "We have been able to find solutions and we now can assume that the way has been cleared to the summit."
Bush said the principles of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the CSCE's founding charter -- the 1975 Helsinki Final Act -- were major factors in last year's revolutionary changes that ended monolithic communist rule in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria, brought down the Berlin Wall and opened the way to German unification.
Today's declaration on Germany is a companion document to the treaty signed Sept. 12 in Moscow marking "final settlement" of four-power control over Berlin and residual rights in the rest of Germany.
That treaty will take effect only after ratification by all the signatory nations' parliaments. Today's agreement to "suspend" the allied rights pending ratification was necessary to permit Wednesday's unification through merging the communist German Democratic Republic created by the Soviet Union in 1949 into the larger, richer western part called the Federal Republic of Germany.
The new nation, to come into existence at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday and to be known simply as "Germany" until a parliament elected after unification chooses a new name, will follow West Germany's system of democratic capitalism.
The treaty allows U.S., British and French troops to remain in Berlin as long as the estimated 370,000 Soviet troops remain in eastern Germany. Moscow has agreed to withdraw its forces by 1994.
During the meeting here, the 35 foreign ministers will begin work to transform the abstract ideas of the Helsinki Final Act into a formal CSCE structure and bureaucracy to be launched at the Paris summit.
The CSCE summit is expected to set a timetable for regular meetings of heads of government and foreign ministers, a small administrative secretariat, an elections monitoring office to advise East Europe's emerging democracies, a parliamentary organization of all participants and a Conflict Prevention Center to help resolve European disputes.