Thatcher hastened fall of Iron Curtain: Poland's Lech Walesa

Staunchly anti-communist Margaret Thatcher was key in hastening the fall of the Iron Curtain, Poland's former president and anti-communist freedom icon Lech Walesa said Monday, hailing the late former British leader.

"She was a great person. She did a great deal for the world, along with (late US president) Ronald Reagan, pope John Paul II and Solidarity, she contributed to the demise of communism in Poland and Central Europe," an emotional Walesa told AFP.

"I'm praying for her," the founder of the anti-communist Solidarity trade union said.

Former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, the controversial "Iron Lady" who shaped a generation of British politics, died following a stroke on Monday at the age of 87, her spokesman said.

Poles have long lauded both Thatcher and the US Republican party, particularly its late "Cold Warrior" Republican president Ronald Reagan, for their staunch support of Solidarity's anti-communist drive and tough approach to Moscow.

Walesa became a global icon as a Gdansk shipyard electrician who won the 1983 Nobel Peace Prize for galvanising the Solidarity trade union, a movement of 10 million workers who rose up against communist totalitarianism.

Poland made a peaceful, if difficult, transition from communism to capitalism in 1989, and is now an economically flourishing pillar of the EU and NATO.