Walesa appeals against strike call

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PRESIDENT Lech Walesa, the former leader of Poland's Solidarity trade union, yesterday urged his one-time colleagues not to put obstacles in the country's precarious path to reform by carrying out their threat to call a general strike in support of pay claims.

Speaking just one day after formally dissolving parliament and announcing fresh elections, President Walesa said the country needed a period of calm leading up to the vote, which will almost certainly be on 12 September. Widespread disruptions would not help it to elect a stable and reform-minded parliament, he warned.

'This is a new situation and I hope that (Marian) Krzaklewski (Solidarity chairman) and the union of which I am still a former leader will understand that we have to tackle important problems,' Mr Walesa said.

The President's plea to Solidarity and his decision over the weekend to veto proposed pension increases have placed him firmly on the side of Hanna Suchocka, the Prime Minister, whose market reform-oriented government was toppled on Friday in a no-confidence vote called by Solidarity MPs.

'A reform camp is being born on Poland's political stage,' Mr Walesa told the nation in a televised address on Monday night. 'And in me it will find an ally, a consistent implementer and, if need be, a leader.'

Having succeeded in toppling the government, the more radical elements in Solidarity want to press ahead with a strike in support of a pay claim by teachers and health workers, which was firmly rejected during negotiations last month. More moderate voices in the union, worried that many of its 2 million members might not heed a strike call, would prefer to call a truce until after the election.