Would-be Polish PM starts coalition talks

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WARSAW, Oct 24 (Reuters) Polish prime minister-in-waiting Donald Tusk began talks today to form a coalition government and said he was confident of a deal between hiscentre-right party and a centrist group.

Tusk's Civic Platform won a parliamentary election on Sunday, defeating the governing Law and Justice party after two years of turbulent rule by conservative Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski and his twin brother Lech, Poland's president.

The Platform, planning fast reforms to central Europe's biggest economy, was short of winning enough seats in parliament to be able to form a government alone and started talks with the pro-EU Peasants Party today.

''This first meeting showed we can talk regardless of all of the differences between us,'' Tusk said. When asked if he was confident of a coalition deal, Tusk said ''Definitely, yes. I am sure of that.'' Tusk said the Peasants Party wanted two or three ministries in the new government. The cabinet list could be presented next Tuesday, a Platform official said. The Peasants Party said it hoped for an agreement as soon as possible.

Opening the way for Tusk to take over, Prime Minister Kaczynski announced that he would resign on November. 5 when the new parliament sits. The president will then be able to formally nominate the new prime minister, but a ruling party official said that would not happen until Tusk finalises his cabinet.

The prime minister and the president, who will remain in office until at least 2010, have presided over a boom in Poland's economy but were caught up in almost constant political infighting and diplomatic quarrels.

The prime minister said he was troubled by reports that his party's election defeat had been celebrated in Russia and Germany, Poland's historic foes, with which his relations had been particularly poor.

''If happiness erupts in this capital (Berlin), then it is at least worrisome,'' a bitter sounding Kaczynski told a news conference. ''When it comes to Moscow, I would also not be so happy about Moscow's happiness if I were Tusk,'' he said.

Tusk has made it a priority to patch up relations with EU countries and Russia.

The Kaczynskis often made reference to Poland's suffering under World War Two Nazi occupation and to Soviet domination during communism, infuriating its neighbours.

Ahead of the coalition talks, Tusk sketched out plans for freeing up the economy. He said priorities were to cut bureaucracy, limit the role of officials over state-controlled firms and discuss a new flat rate of income tax.

REUTERS AE RK2235

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