Poland's last communist chief and PM dead at 82

WARSAW Sat Nov 8, 2008 1:03pm EST

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WARSAW (Reuters) - Mieczyslaw Rakowski, Poland's last communist prime minister and head of the ruling communist party, has died at the age of 82, news channel TVN24 reported on Saturday.

Rakowski headed Poland's government in 1988-1989 and led the ruling Polish United Workers Party for half a year until it was disbanded in January 1990 amid the country's switch-over from Soviet-style rule to parliamentary democracy.

He first rose to prominence as the editor of the influential weekly Polityka which was regarded as surprisingly liberal by Soviet-bloc standards.

A life-long communist, Rakowski nevertheless opposed the party's hardliners and sought agreement with moderate opposition activists.

But he clashed openly with the Solidarity movement which emerged in 1980 to challenge totalitarian rule and was remembered for his attempt to liquidate its cradle, the Gdansk Shipyard.

(Reporting by Rob Strybel; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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