A high-level debate over Mikhail Gorbachev's efforts to reform the communist system has broken into the open, with the Soviet leader denying he has strayed from socialism and two newspapers clashing over the ideological correctness of his policies.

The heated argument erupted Tuesday in the form of a rare full-page attack by the Communist Party newspaper Pravda against an earlier article in the Sovetskaya Rossiya newspaper that questioned basic aspects of Gorbachev's program.Gorbachev himself lashed out at critics who claim his new policy is departing from the true socialism.

"We are not looking for answers outside the framework of socialism," he told visiting former West German Chancellor Willy Brandt. "It does not mean a change of ideological banner.

"We are convinced that the socialist system contains inexhaustible potentials for the sound development of the economy," the official Tass news agency quoted Gorbachev as saying.

Pravda, which closely reflects Kremlin thinking, called the March 13 article in Sovetskaya Rossiya "an ideological platform, a manifesto of the anti-perestroika (anti-reform) forces."