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Former Polish PM Jozef Oleksy dies

Jozef Oleksy, a communist-era party leader who in democratic Poland served as a left-wing prime minister until he was forced to resign over unproven accusations of spying for Russia, has died aged 68.

Mr Oleksy died after a long serious illness, said an official with the Democratic Left Alliance party. He was being treated in a Warsaw cancer hospital.

Raised as a Roman Catholic, Mr Oleksy was a prominent communist party leader and briefly served as minister for contacts with the trade unions.

He took part in the 1989 Round Table talks with Solidarity that peacefully ended communist rule in Poland.

Mr Oleksy co-founded a now-defunct party and was prime minister from 1995-96. He resigned amid unconfirmed accusations of spying for Russia which were made by the right-wing interior minister of the time, Andrzej Milczanowski.

Former president Lech Walesa, who at the time believed the accusations and played a role in his ouster, said today that he no longer believes that Mr Oleksy was a spy.

"Today I publicly apologise to him and ask his forgiveness," said Mr Walesa, who won the 1983 Nobel Peace Prize for founding and leading Solidarity.

"According to the information I have today, he was not a spy, but he talked too much and the Russians liked to talk with him."

In 2004 Mr Oleksy returned to political office as interior minister.

Politicians today praised him as a leader who was friendly and open to dialogue.

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