Guenter Schabowski, the senior East German official whose cryptic announcement that the communist country was opening its fortified border precipitated the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, has died at 86.

His widow, Irina Schabowski, told the German news agency dpa that he died Sunday in a Berlin nursing home.

Politburo spokesman Schabowski's halting words at the conclusion of a plodding evening news conference on Nov. 9, 1989, put an end to Berlin's 28 years of division. Schabowski offhandedly said East Germany was lifting restrictions on travel across its border with West Germany.

Pressed on when the headline-making regulation would take effect, he looked down at his notes and stammered: "As far as I know, this enters into force ... this is immediately, without delay."