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Despite frustration, Walesa sees talks with government as best bet

Lech Walesa enters St. Brygida's Church, throws off his sheepskin jacket, slumps into a chair, and announces, ``I feel lousy.'' The Solidarity leader is frustrated and tired by the closing of the Lenin Shipyard, where he works as an electrician. He still hopes to reach a deal with Poland's communist government, avoiding strikes and potential violence. Impatient young union members criticize his moderation and want action.

``We need dialogue. Dialogue is best for Poland,'' he told the Monitor at the beginning of a 45-minute interview. ``It's either evolution or revolution.''

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Some excerpts from the interview:

On strikes: ``The young people wanted to fight. Some people said that it is Lech Walesa who didn't follow. But when I learned about the decision to postpone the shipyard's closure for two years, I decided not to call a strike.''

On timing: ``If I knew that the shipyard would close right away, then everyone would be behind me. But when I hear that it will close in two years, people think there is a chance to arrange things.

It's like bananas. I like bananas. But if I try to plant them here, it won't work. I have made a calculation now that strikes won't work. We could change tomorrow.''

On guarantees: ``We have no real guarantee. We just have this two-year period to show better solutions for the shipyard. We're working on it. We must save the cradle of Solidarity, the symbol of our fight.''

On the nature of compromise: ``The authorities today say they want to give me the position of vice prime minister. But I would receive this as a privilege, and then they would say, `Solve the problems, get us new credits from the West.' If I follow this logic, they could thrown me in prison as soon as I say no. We want laws, rights, positions offered by law, not by privilege. This is the round-table's task.''

On prospects for the round-table: ``We are ready now for serious discussions. The government side is not ready. They multiply obstacles. They tell us who we can bring to the table and who we cannot. This is the drawback of communism. It does not lend itself to compromise.''

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On the prospects for unrest: ``If there is no solution, the people will become fed up. They will throw themselves against the power. It's like when there is garbage into the water. It spreads and pollutes. You drink and you become sick. You must cut off the water.''

On youth: ``The young are always more simple and direct in their way of expressing themselves.

Today they say, `Oh that old man, he speaks too much.' I listen. I try to hear them.''

On Mikhail Gorbachev and perestroika: ``We also hope to do perestroika [restructuring] here.

It's different in a great power like the Soviet Union. We see the depth of his difficulties and his needs. We hope he succeeds.

We want to help perestroika, not block it.''

On George Bush: ``I was convinced he would win. I have personally met Mr. Bush. Maybe our expectations for him to do something are too large for our actual possibilities. I just want Polish problems to be well understood. This choice is good for Poland.''

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