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Monday, July 5, 1999 Published at 09:38 GMT 10:38 UK

World: Europe

Reagan touted for Warsaw honour

Many Polish squares were renamed after Solidarity's victory

A group of about 100 prominent Poles has launched a campaign to rename a central Warsaw square after former US president Ronald Reagan.

Radoslaw Sikorski: 'He helped liberate us from communism"
The group has set up a committee led by the Polish deputy foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, to rename Constitution Square - a name that refers to the now defunct communist constitution of 1952.

The chairman of the Solidarity movement, Marian Krzaklewski said Mr Reagan had helped Solidarity in its struggle against the communist regime in the 1980s.

"Reagan was the main author of the victory of the free world over the 'evil empire'," he added.

Well regarded

Although Mr Reagan has never been to Poland, he is well regarded there for his support for Solidarity as well as sanctions against Poland's communist rulers after the regime imposed martial law in December 1981 to crush Poland's independent labour movement.

[ image: Up our street: Ronald Reagan helped the Poles against the 'evil empire']
Up our street: Ronald Reagan helped the Poles against the 'evil empire'
After Solidarity toppled the regime, Poles renamed many streets and public buildings to drop communist era names.

Constitution Square is one of the last remaining names in Warsaw linked to the communist era.

If the group succeeds, Mr Reagan would join George Washington and Woodrow Wilson as US presidents with Warsaw plazas named after them.

Health fears

Committee spokesman Jozef Szaniawski said the square bears the name of an "invalid constitution of the country which no longer exists" - thanks in part to Mr Reagan.

Mr Szaniawski said the idea emerged after a news report about Mr Reagan's health. The committee would like the square renamed on 11 November, Poland's Independence Day.

Mr Reagan, who turned 88 on 6 February, disclosed in 1994 that he had Alzheimer's disease, which destroys brain cells and causes memory loss.

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