Tuesday, March 30, 1999

Walesa opposes NATO bombing

Polish leader tells Miami audience: 'No problem should be solved by force'

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        OXFORD — Lech Walesa, the shipyard union leader who led 10 million Poles to freedom, said the fighting in Yugoslavia “proves that the burden of the past is still with us.”

        Speaking through an interpreter at Miami University Monday, Mr. Walesa said the Yugoslavian problem could have been avoided if nations had heeded his advice several years ago.

No border changes
        “A year before the conflict started, I warned the world,” he said. “My solution was that we should agree that every human has a right to freedom, but the freedom of one group should not hinder the freedom of another group.”

        He said there should be no changing of borders, as Eu rope has routinely done for centuries.

        “No problem should be solved by force,” he said.

        He likened the United States role in the world as that of a policeman.

        “We must provide a new way,” he said.

        In 1980, Mr. Walesa, a shipyard electrician and devout Catholic, organized the Solidarity union and urged an end to communism in Poland. For his efforts he received support from Pope John Paul II — and was imprisoned by Poland's communist leaders.

        When Mr. Walesa called for strikes, communist leaders declared martial law and outlawed Solidarity. But support for the first free trade union in the Soviet bloc continued to grow.

        “It was a success that consisted of correcting the errors of my generation,” he said.


        In 1990, Mr. Walesa became his nation's first popularly elected president, after four decades of communism in Poland.

        His political career ended in 1995, when former communist Aleksander Kwasniewski defeated Mr. Walesa.

        These days, Mr. Walesa speaks out on democracy and free market reforms in Eastern Europe and the world. He works with the Lech Walesa Institute.

Medal awarded
        On Monday, he spoke to about 30 students in Bishop Hall. Miami President James Garland awarded Mr. Walesa the presidential medal, given to people for service to their country.

        “Very few people can say their lives have changed the lives of millions of people,” Mr. Garland said. “At great personal sacrifice, he brought peace and democracy to Poland.”


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