Former Czechoslovak leader Alexander Dubcek, deposed by Warsaw Pact troops in 1968, has urged the West to support Soviet reform policies, saying that failure to do so could bring a neo-Stalinist backlash.

Dubcek, who was ousted after Czechoslovakia's brief flirtation with reform during the "Prague Spring," gave the warning after receiving an honorary degree from Bologna University during his first foreign trip in 18 years.In a speech accepting the political science degree on Sunday, he deleted from his prepared text a harsh criticism of the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion and of life in Czechoslovakia since then.

University officials said, however, that the full written text was still valid.

Dubcek, 66, said in a conversation with four university professors televised on Sunday night that it was essential for Western countries to support Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika (restructuring) policies.

He said that if the Soviet reform process failed, the backlash "could be much worse than one imagines . . . a kind of neo-Stalinism."

Dubcek has been given an enthusiastic welcome in Communist-controlled Bologna and feted as a champion of Socialism, in stark contrast to his relegation to obscurity as a forestry worker in Czechoslovakia over the last two decades.

Dubcek, who has voiced fears about his return home after his 10 days in Italy, omitted from his university speech all the detailed political sections about Czechoslovakia, reading only general passages and those thanking the university.

In Prague on Monday, government spokesman Miroslaw Pavel told a news conference that Dubcek would be allowed home.

"He is a Czechoslovak citizen, so one of his basic rights is to live in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. It's up to him whether he will make use of this right," said Pavel, who made no comment on the content of the text.

In one passage omitted from the speech, Dubcek said in reference to his attempts while in power to promote "socialism with a human face" that he was sure that "without outside intervention . . . our efforts would have been crowned with success."

He wrote that the two decades since 1968 had seen "the worsening of economic stagnation, sterility and incalculable moral losses."