The top brass of Germany's ruling Social Democrats on Monday criticized the SPD party's former leader, Oskar Lafontaine, for comments he made to a leading national newsmagazine calling for SPD members to depose Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. Lafontaine told the newsweekly
Der Spiegel that he would support the creation of a new leftist party if Schröder refuses to resign. The SPD's current party chief, Franz Müntefering said Lafontaine could not longer be integrated but that the party would not formally seek to revoke his membership. "He's easier for us to deal with when he's inside the party," Müntefering said. Schröder's spokesman refused Monday to comment on Lafontaine's statements. Leftist Lafontaine, who retired temporarily from politics in 1999, has long criticized Schröder, whose policies he has deemed too conservative.