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Poland's first post-Communist premier Mazowiecki dies

Former Polish prime minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki, pictured leaving the Diet, the Polish Parliament, in Warsaw, on August 19, 1989
Former Polish prime minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki, pictured leaving the Diet, the Polish Parliament, in Warsaw, on August 19, 1989

Tadeusz Mazowiecki, a former Polish prime minister who was the first non-Communist head of government in Soviet-dominated eastern Europe, died in Warsaw at the age of 86 on Monday, the KAI news agency reported.

Mazowiecki was "one of the fathers of Polish liberty and independence", Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski told Polish Radio.

One of the early members of the Solidarity movement, he became prime minister in August 1989 after Solidarity won June 1989 polls and its leader Lech Walesa tapped him for the job.

He and Walesa fell out and ran against each other in presidential elections the following year, which Walesa handily won.

"He was really one of the outstanding people I met on this journey," of transition, Walesa told Poland's commercial TVN24 news channel Monday.

"Mazowiecki was the best prime minister Poland ever had," the 1983 Nobel Peace laurate added.

Wojciech Jaruzelski, 90, who was Poland's last Communist president under whom Mazowiecki served as premier, hailed him for even-handedness.

"I valued prime minister Mazowiecki for his wisdom, his moderation and sober evaluation of the difficult situation as well as his determination on matters he thought were crucial," Jaruzelski told the Polish PAP news agency Monday.

"It was a period of transition, a time of change, and we had to adjust to the reality of the situation," he added.

In mid-1990s Mazowiecki served as a special UN envoy for ex-Yugoslavia, but quit the post after the Srebrenica massacre of some 8,000 Muslim boys and men by Serb forces in July 1995.

A lawyer by training, he was born in the central town of Plock on April 18, 1927.

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