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Poland Names New Ambassador in a Move to Better Its Kremlin Ties

January 04, 1986|ROBERT GILLETTE | Times Staff Writer

WARSAW — Poland named a new ambassador to Moscow on Friday in a move designed to improve its relations with the Soviet Union.

The official Polish news agency PAP said that the Council of State, headed by Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, had appointed Wlodzimierz Natorf, a career diplomat and former head of the Polish Communist Party's foreign relations department, as ambassador to Moscow.

The announcement made no mention of Poland's current ambassador, Stanislaw Kociolek, 52, a hard-line opponent of Jaruzelski who is reported to have criticized the Polish leader for failing to crush the country's still-vigorous political opposition.

Liberal party activists have long contended that Kociolek was ill-disposed to represent the Polish leadership's relatively moderate policy line to the Kremlin, and some have accused him of actively undermining Soviet support for Jaruzelski. His removal as envoy has been the subject of recurrent rumors for more than a year, but as one of Moscow's favorites, Kociolek had managed to cling to his post.

Embarrassing Conflict

Diplomatic sources said it appeared that Jaruzelski's new foreign minister, Marian Orzechowski, was able to persuade the Soviets during a visit to Moscow last month to accept a replacement for Kociolek after the envoy became embroiled in an embarrassing personal conflict, the details of which were not known.

A controversial figure in Polish politics for many years, Kociolek played a central role in the bloody suppression of strikes in Gdansk on the Baltic seacoast in 1970, when about 300 workers were killed by security forces. He was a bitter foe of Solidarity, the now-outlawed independent trade union movement, when it arose from fresh strikes in Gdansk in 1980 and is said to have accused Jaruzelski of undue restraint in suppressing it under martial law in 1981.

Kociolek has served as Poland's envoy to the Soviet Union since June, 1982, when he was ousted as Warsaw party chief.

His departure as ambassador is the latest in a series of realignments in the Polish government and party apparatus as Jaruzelski girds for an expected conflict with orthodox hard-liners at a policy-making Communist Party congress scheduled for this spring.

According to liberal party activists, hard-line factions favor a retreat from market-oriented reforms in the economy and would impose tighter political controls on every aspect of Polish society, particularly the highly independent Roman Catholic Church.

Jaruzelski Loyalist

Diplomats said that Natorf, the new ambassador to Moscow, will probably be a more reliable and effective salesman for Jaruzelski's regime, by most measures one of the least repressive in Eastern Europe. Communist Party sources said that Natorf fits the requirements of a moderate hard-liner who is loyal to Jaruzelski.

Natorf, 54, began his career in the Foreign Ministry in 1955, and served as ambassador to the United Nations in New York and Geneva before being named head of the party's foreign relations department in 1981.

His appointment to Poland's most important foreign post comes at a sensitive juncture in Poland's relations with Moscow. Mikhail S. Gorbachev's new leadership in Moscow has so far shown considerable skepticism toward the kind of liberalizing economic reforms Hungary has pioneered and Poland is trying to duplicate. At what may prove to be a historic party congress next month, Gorbachev is expected to outline a reform program of his own and clarify his policies toward Eastern Europe and the West.

Besides explaining Poland's divergent ideological line to the Kremlin--what Warsaw calls "the Polish road to socialism"--Natorf has the difficult task of shoring up Soviet support for the Polish economy, which is failing to revive as the Jaruzelski leadership has promised.

The hard-currency debt has grown to more than $29 billion, up from $26 billion in 1981. But exports to the West, which Poland needs to service its ballooning debt, fell by 3.5% in the first 11 months of 1985, while imports rose by 10.5%.

Coincidentally, the Soviet Union is also replacing its ambassador to Poland. Alexander N. Aksyonov was recalled last month to become chairman of Gosteleradio, the state committee in charge of television and radio broadcasting. A new Soviet envoy has not been named.

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