U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Whitehead arrived in Warsaw on Wednesday to meet Polish government and opposition leaders as they prepared for crucial talks on the country's future.
Whitehead landed in the Polish capital amid a government changeover and intensive preparations for the talks between the Communist authorities and the Solidarity trade union they suppressed under martial law.He was due to fly later to the northern city of Gdansk for discussions with Solidarity leader Lech Walesa who will head the opposition team at the talks on political and economic reforms.
Whitehead, President Reagan's top central European envoy, is on a tour of five East European countries and Berlin. U.S. Embassy officials said his arrival in Warsaw on the eve of the government-opposition talks was a coincidence.
Earlier, Whitehead read a statement at the Berlin Wall, calling for East Germany to tear down the Communist border fortification.
However, if the negotiations are successful they could lead to warmer relations between Washington and Warsaw and to renewed U.S. aid for Poland's stagnating economy.
Communist leader Wojciech Jaruzelski has convened the talks, expected to start next week, to seek a national agreement on ways to extricate Poland from economic crisis and enlist the opposition in a coalition supporting the measures.
Solidarity's reinstatement as an independent trade union is expected to be the central issue, which many Communist officials are reluctant to concede. However, Solidarity leaders say nothing will be achieved without it.
Poland has repeatedly sought U.S. backing for its efforts to win new international credits to help meet a crippling $38 billion foreign debt and emerge from economic crisis.
Whitehead said on a visit to Warsaw in February that U.S. aid for Poland would depend on the success of Jaruzelski's economic reforms, on the government's human rights performance and on political moves towards national reconcilation.
Since then 50 percent annual inflation, consumer goods shortages and two pro-Solidarity strike waves have prompted Jaruzelski to reverse his policy after eight years and open talks with Solidarity and unveil plans for broad political liberalization.