President Lech Walesa will retain Leszek Balcerowicz, architect of Poland's controversial economic austerity measures, in a key role in his new government, a spokesman said Friday.

Presidential spokesman Andrzej Drzycimski also said Walesa has narrowed down the choice of prime minister to "a few candidates," each of whom has outlined his suggestions for a Cabinet."There are a few candidates for the job of prime minister," Drzycimski told reporters at a briefing. "The composition of the government is also ready."

Drzycimski said Walesa will announce his choice for prime minister either Saturday or on Jan. 3.

The spokesman refused to confirm that Jan Krzysztof Bielecki, a 39-year-old economist from Gdansk, is favored for the premier's job.

He said Balcerowicz, finance minister and one of three deputy prime ministers in the government of Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki, "will have a significant position in a new government."

"He is expected to be a deputy prime minister," he said.

In the presidential campaign, Walesa was sharply critical of Balcerowicz's austerity campaign.

During a break in his consultations, Walesa met Soviet Ambassador Yuri Kashlev to discuss the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Poland and his upcoming visit to the Soviet Union.

Following the meeting in his Belweder Palace office, Walesa said the talks "focused on the development of relations between Poland and the Soviet Union," Polish television said.

He also said he asked Kashlev to extend greetings to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.