Walesa granted private audience with the Queen

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The Independent Online
Despite turning down an invitation to lunch with the Queen, Poland's former President, Lech Walesa, has been granted a brief private audience during her three-day visit to Poland which begins today, writes Adrian Bridge.

Officials at the British embassy in Poland have confirmed that Mr Walesa, who spearheaded his country's revolt against Communism, would be joining the Queen for afternoon tea tomorrow.

The two last met in 1991 when Mr Walesa - then president - made a state visit to Britain during which he was the guest of the Queen at Windsor Castle and where he, in turn, invited her to Poland.

Originally the Queen had hoped to renew the acquaintance at a lunch she is hosting in Warsaw tomorrow. But Mr Walesa turned down the invitation because the event will also be attended by his successor, Aleksander Kwasniewski, the man who narrowly defeated him in last November's presidential election.

In addition to addressing parliament, the Queen, who is making her first visit to Poland, will meet Polish war veterans, tour a secondary school and lay a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier.

She will also be laying a wreath at the Umschlagplatz, the site of former railway sidings from which Warsaw's Jews were taken to death camps by German forces during the Second World War. That visit was a late addition to the Queen's programme following protests from British Jewish groups.