Solidarity leader Lech Walesa said Sunday he probably will step down in April as leader of the union he founded as a shipyard electrician and ultimately led into control of the government.
Walesa, 46, who has served as leader of the East Bloc's first independent trade union since its founding in 1980, made the statement during a speech before 1,000 supporters after a Mass in his home city of Gdansk.
At one point during the rally at St. Brygida's Church, Walesa was interrupted by heckling from a group of about 50 young radicals who feel the union has moved away from democratic processes.
Walesa has often spoken about his desire to retire from the burdens of the union. Some people around him suspect he is preparing to make a bid for Poland's presidency, replacing Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, if Poland's constitution is altered this year requiring new presidential elections.
"I am publicly saying that I will not run for (union) leadership at the regional congress (scheduled this week in Gdansk) and, most probably, at the national congress either," Walesa said.
He had told a news conference Thursday that he was "tired" of his activity and would like to rest for at least two years. But he stressed then that if radicals threatened to take over Solidarity, he would stay on the job.
Walesa led the union into a series of talks with the Communist government that led to the union being legalized anew, its participating in elections and ultimately to government control.