Lawmakers of 33 countries from East and West began a conference Saturday, with some Western leaders endorsing free trade unions and objecting to one-party rule, the official PAP news agency reported.

Organizers say the three-day meeting of about 150 leaders from Europe, Canada and the United States is the first to assemble parliament leaders from both the East and West blocs."Freedom is our right and it is our obligation, when need be, to criticize others. But this does not mean interference in the internal affairs of others," PAP quoted Netherlands parliamentary leader Dirk Dolman as saying.

"There is one law of East European states to which Western Europe objects principally: That is the special role, laid down in the constitution, of one party - the Communist Party," he said.

Swedish Parliament Speaker Thage Peterson told the conference: "One important factor in the democratic process is an open dialogue with free and independent trade union organizations," PAP reported.

It appeared to be a reference to Polish authorities' ban on Solidarity, the East bloc's first independent trade union.

Gudrun Helgadottir, president of Iceland's Parliament, called for breaking down the divisions in Europe, including dismantling military alliances.

Roman Malinowski, Polish Parliament speaker, said he hopes the conference "will become the beginning of a new practice of cooperation."