Poland taps communist strongman to advise on Medvedev visit

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Poland's communist-era strongman General Wojciech Jaruzelski has been tapped to advise President Bronislaw Komorowski on a looming visit by Russian head of state Dmitry Medvedev, a top aide said Wednesday.

"General Jaruzelski has confirmed that he will take part in a session of the National Security Council," on Wednesday, said the council's head Stanislaw Koziej.

The council, whose regular membership includes party leaders from across Poland's political spectrum, advises the president on international affairs.

Jaruzelski, 87, was invited to take part as he is a former head of state, Koziej explained.

Among the other ex-leaders mustered for the meeting is Lech Walesa, the former head of the communist-era Solidarity opposition who became president in 1990 after Jaruzelski's regime fell.

Medevedev is due to visit Poland on December 6, amid a thaw in ties between Warsaw and its communist-era overlord Moscow.

"There are few people who know Russia as well as General Jaruzelski does," senior Komorowski aide Slawomir Nowak said in a radio interview Wednesday.

Jaruzelski is a controversial figure who ruled Poland from 1981, the year he launched a military crackdown on Solidarity to smother the Soviet bloc's biggest opposition movement.

He later went on to hold talks with Solidarity which led to a 1989 election and the peaceful demise of his regime, speeding the collapse of the Soviet bloc over the ensuing two years.

He formally gave up his role as president in 1990, enabling Walesa to become Poland's first democratically elected head of state since World War II.

In 2007 Jaruzelski was charged for having imposed martial law 26 years earlier. The court case is still under way, and he faces 10 years in prison if found guilty.

© 2010 AFP

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