The Communist Party of Soviet Georgia decided Saturday to split from the national Communist Party and work toward the republic's independence, according to news reports.

In Lithuania, meanwhile, party officials who broke with the Kremlin last year opened a congress at which they were expected to drop the word "Communist" and rename themselves the Democratic Labor Party.The Georgian Communists announced they were withdrawing from the Soviet party at a party congress in Tbilisi, the republic's capital. They adopted new party rules and elected Avtandil Marguiania, a 45-year-old engineer, as party leader, the official Tass news agency said.

He replaces Givi Gumbaridze, who resigned as first secretary of the party.

The new rules say the party will work with the Georgian parliament to make the republic a sovereign state, according to Tass.

Soviet television also reported the Georgian party's decision to become an "independent political party within the framework of the constitution of the Georgian republic."

The TV report said the Communists would be changing the party's name and that suggestions would be printed in the local press.

Delegates from the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, both autonomous regions in the republic that oppose independence, rejected the new party rules and decided to split from the Georgian party, Tass said.

In October, non-Communist parties won Georgian elections on a platform calling for independence, private ownership of land and a capitalist economy.

In the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, delegates of the Independent Communist Party of Lithuania heard their leader say that the republic must increase its economic independence from the Soviet Union.

Party leader Algirdas Brazauskas said he continues to follow a "step-by-step" process of independence, the Baltic News Agency reported.

"We need evolution, not revolution," Brazauskas was quoted by the independent news service as saying. "There is no independence without democracy and there can be no democracy without independence."

Brazauskas said before the session that the party's new name will most likely be the Democratic Labor Party.

The Communist Party split into two distinct groups at a party congress one year ago, with one side remaining loyal to the Kremlin and the other being reorganized along social democratic lines.