Thousands bid farewell to Poland's ex-premier Mazowiecki

Thousands of mourners attended the state funeral on Sunday of Poland's Tadeusz Mazowiecki, the first non-Communist premier in Soviet-dominated eastern Europe, who died last Monday aged 86.

Large crowds gathered outside the Saint John's Archcathedral in central Warsaw where the service was being held on what was declared a day of national mourning.

The solemn mass, which was also screened live on television, was attended by President Bronislaw Komorowski, Prime Minister Donald Tusk, European Commission head Manuel Barroso as well as former Polish heads of government.

Mazowiecki, a lifelong heavy smoker, died in hospital after a long illness. A Catholic intellectual who dedicated his life to fighting totalitarianism, he is widely seen as the father of Polish liberty.

Mazowiecki will be laid to rest at a cemetery in Laski, near Warsaw, where many Catholic intellectuals are buried.

One of the early members of the Solidarity movement, he became prime minister in August 1989, two months after the anti-communist Solidarity won elections.

In the mid-1990s, Mazowiecki served as a special UN envoy for ex-Yugoslavia, but quit the post after the Srebrenica massacre of some 8,000 Muslim boys and men by Bosnian Serb forces in July 1995.