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Lech Walesa (in the middle) attends Polish Freedom Day. / SAUL LOEB, AFP/Getty Images

President Obama has no hard feelings for Lech Walesa.

While Walesa has criticized Obama's global leadership in recent days, Obama on Wednesday praised the former president and shipyard electrician whose work for the Solidarity labor union led to Poland's freedom from the Soviet Union

Speaking at the ceremony marking the 25th anniversary of free elections in Poland, Obama praised all the world leaders in attendance -- "including the man who jumped that shipyard wall to lead a strike that became a movement, the prisoner turned president who transformed this nation!

"Thank you Lech Walesa, for your outstanding leadership!"

Walesa has criticized Obama and the United States for what he calls a lack of leadership in the face of Russia's aggression in Ukraine.

"The superpower has failed," Walesa told one Polish network."That's why the world is in a dangerous place. Many bad things can happen in the world because of a lack of leadership."

White House officials said Obama and Walesa spoke, briefly, at a dinner in Warsaw on Tuesday night.

"The president did say to us that that Lech Wa┼?─?sa is a man who did as much as anybody to help bring about freedom and democracy in Eastern Europe," said Ben Rhodes, a White House spokesman. "And the fact that he's occasionally criticized certain policies of the president in no way diminishes the respect we have for us his extraordinary achievements."

On Poland's role as an emerging democracy, Obama and Walesa are probably in accord.

In an open letter marking the 25th annual Polish Freedom Day, Walesa told his country men that "we have broken free. We have built democracy. Now let us see to it that our country is even stronger in the secure and prosperous international communities of the European Union and of a world that understands the concept of solidarity."



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Obama praises one of his critics: Lech Walesa

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