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Low-Key Session Between 2 Polish Adversaries : Walesa, Jaruzelski Meet for 1st Time in 7 Years

Times Staff Writer

Solidarity leader Lech Walesa and Polish Communist Party chief Wojciech Jaruzelski met Tuesday for the first time in seven years, in a deliberately low-key session that seemed designed to impress the Polish public that discussions between the two longtime adversaries have become commonplace events.

The meeting came one day after a Warsaw court formally registered Solidarity as a functioning union, restoring the organization to its position as the first independent trade union in Eastern Europe, a status it lost when Jaruzelski imposed martial law in 1981 and ordered Walesa’s arrest.

The last meeting between Walesa and Jaruzelski came about a month before the martial law declaration.

“Reconciliation is a process, not an event,” Jaruzelski said, speaking in a rare impromptu news conference with a handful of reporters gathered at the exit of the Polish Parliament building where the meeting was held.

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“It is understandable that I feel satisfaction (with the meeting),” he said. “We have passed a long and difficult way. There is a long and difficult way ahead of us, but we can envision a further prosperous development.”

He said no further meetings are planned, but he added: “It is becoming not so extraordinary an event. As our needs go, we will get in touch.”

Jaruzelski said the recently concluded “round-table” agreements reached with Solidarity had formed the beginning of the reconciliation process.

“Today, in a way, we put another stamp on that agreement,” he said.

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Walesa left the meeting without talking to journalists, but his aides said the two sat together on a couch in one of the Parliament building’s ceremonial chambers and talked for about an hour.

Solidarity sources said the talk was arranged by the government as part of a meeting of an arbitration council set up to monitor the accords drawn up at the round-table negotiations.

In addition to the legalization of Solidarity, the wide-ranging accords call for new elections to the Polish Parliament, with 65% of the seats apportioned to a coalition of Communist organizations and 35% open to opposition candidates. A new upper house, or Senate, will be created, with 100 seats open to all comers in what will become the first freely elected legislative body in the Communist Bloc. The elections are to be held in June.

On Monday, in response to the Polish government’s rapprochement with Solidarity, President Bush announced a package of trade and economic benefits, declaring, “The Poles are now taking steps that deserve our active support.”

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The measures are designed to encourage U.S. firms to invest in Poland and will allow the duty-free import of some Polish goods to the United States. Most importantly, the American move should provide support with lending agencies to reschedule payments on Poland’s crippling $39-billion foreign debt.

The Polish government’s response to the Bush proposal was notably understated, probably because the authorities want to avoid any impression that they have knuckled under to Western conditions for economic assistance.

Jaruzelski made no mention of it in his brief session with reporters. The government’s deputy press spokesman, Zbyslaw Rykowski, made only fleeting references. Asked to respond to Bush’s assertion that communism was a “failing” system, Rykowski replied:

“Communism is not failing and we will try to prove that to President Bush. We have new hopes and new vistas.”

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‘Bush a Great Man’

While Rykowski called the measures a sign of positive U.S. intentions and “an appropriate step toward normalizing relations between the two countries after the years of restrictions and limitations,” he also said they failed to “dot the i.”

Walesa, when asked Monday about the Bush offer, was more outgoing. “Bush is a great man,” he said, “and he knows the Polish situation very well.”

French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas, in Warsaw to prepare for the visit in June of French President Francois Mitterrand, told journalists that he would depart Poland “with the conviction that the success of the political developments here is contingent on economic success.” He said France would “become a champion of Polish assistance” in the International Monetary Fund and the so-called Paris Club of foreign lenders.

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However muted the official response, the Polish government has been lobbying hard for months to win the kind of backing suggested by Dumas, and the pledge by Bush is tangible evidence that their rapprochement with Solidarity, its old foe, has brought about a result it was not able to achieve on its own.

Bush’s assertion that “Eastern Europe is awakening to the yearnings for democracy, independence and prosperity” suggests a “carrot-and-stick” policy of rewarding liberalizing regimes in the region, a policy that, for the moment, may apply only to Poland and Hungary.

Policies of Reform

The rest of the nations in the region--Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Bulgaria and Romania--have given only lip service to the Soviets’ reform policies.

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The Hungarians, Poland’s nearest competitor in the all-deliberate-speed race toward reform, responded with enthusiasm to the Bush proposal on Poland, in effect asking for the plate to be passed their way.

“We welcome Mr. Bush’s statements supporting the developments in central and eastern Europe,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Istvan Komoroczki said. “And we look forward to tangible steps from the U.S. Administration.”


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