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Walesa or Gorbachev: Who will tip first domino in Berlin?

Gdansk — Poland’s anti-communist icon Lech Walesa or the USSR’s last leader Mikhail Gorbachev: Who will tip over dominoes symbolising communism’s demise at Berlin wall anniversary ceremonies next week?

Thousands of dominoes measuring 2.5 meters (2.2 yards) in height will be lined up over two kilometres (1.24 miles) in central Berlin on November 9 and tipped over symbolizing the fall of the Berlin wall 20 years ago.

"I’m invited to Berlin to tip over the first domino," Walesa told AFP Wednesday.

"I have the right to do it, Poland has the right to do it because the first wall fell in Gdansk in 1980. Without the fall of this first wall, the one in Berlin would never have been able to come down," he said.

Walesa, 66, was referring to an historic strike at the Gdansk shipyard that led to a massive wave of strikes across Poland which shook the communist bloc and gave rise to its first and only free trade union, Solidarity.

The union later negotiated a peaceful end to communism in Poland which culminated in the first partially democratic parliamentary election in the communist bloc in June 1989, a full six months before the Berlin wall came tumbling down.

But according to a provisional programme for the celebrations marking the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall issued by the German government, Mikhail Gorbachev will knock over the first domino at around 19:30 pm (1830 GMT).

The author of the USSR’s "Glasnost" (openness) and "Perestroika" (reconstruction) policies, Gorbachev, 78, said Tuesday he was proud of his role in the fall of the Berlin Wall, defending himself against Russian critics who accuse him of losing the Soviet empire.

"I am proud that we — and by that I mean both Western and Eastern European countries — found an approach that took everyone’s interests into account, so this most painful thing was liquidated," Gorbachev, the winner of the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize, said.

Walesa won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983. He also served as Poland’s first democratically elected president after the fall of communism.

Solidarity negotiated a bloodless end to communism in 1989, a move regarded as having had a domino effect across the Soviet bloc, ending in the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

European leaders including British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, French President Nicolas Sarkozy as well as the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be in Berlin next week for the anniversary.