The Communist Party began its congress Saturday hoping to remake its image, but a bomb threat and a strike of conference hall workers marred the event.

The staff of Prague's Palace of Culture, the traditional site of party caucuses, walked off the job to protest the congress. The 868 delegates opted to meet in another location today, when the meeting is scheduled to end.An anonymous caller said a bomb had been planted at the congress site, interrupting the meeting for an hour. Police searched the hall but found nothing.

In its first day, the congress decided to form a Federation Council to coordinate work of the Czech and the Slovak parties during the next two years, as well as any other political party wishing to join the federation in the future.

There was also balloting for leadership roles within the Communist Party.

Miroslav Grebenicek, 43, a newcomer to the party leadership, defeated former chairman Vasil Mohorita to become the Czech candidate for the party chairmanship, the official news agency CTK reported.

The vote appeared to confirm the party's attempt to shed the image of Communist orthodoxy. Mohorita was close to the government of Milos Jakes before the country's peaceful revolution ousted Communists from power in November 1989.

But later, Grebenicek openly endorsed rival Slovak candidate Pavol Kanis and the final vote for the party's top post - to take place today - seemed a forgone conclusion.

The Communists gained 13.5 percent of the vote in the June elections. But their membership has been shrinking, reaching a record low of 450,000, analysts have said.

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