Polish leaders try to limit damage in new scandal

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WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland's prime minister said Monday the release of a secretly taped conversation between two top officials that hints at impropriety amounts to an organized attempt to overturn his government.

Polish magazine Wprost on Saturday published the recording in which central bank head Marek Belka told Interior Minister Bartlomiej Sienkiewicz last July that he would help the government get out of financial trouble if it fired the finance minister.

That minister, Jacek Rostowski, was replaced four months later, but Tusk denied it was the result of the talk between the two officials.

Tusk called the recording an "attempt to overturn the government through illegal methods" and an attempt at a coup against the Polish state. He also said it was the first such organized eavesdropping on leaders since Poland overthrew communism in 1989.

However, he did not say who might be behind the recordings.

During the meeting, which took place in a Warsaw restaurant at Belka's request, the two men discussed how the National Bank of Poland could help the government emerge from its then-weak financial situation in order to increase its chances of winning re-election in 2015. The conversation included references to possible central bank stimulus for the economy.

The central bank is supposed to be independent from the government and interference either way is prohibited.

It wasn't clear who made the recording. However, Belka in effect confirmed the authenticity of the tapes in his reaction to them. He apologized for vulgar language and said that his comments were taken out of context and that he did nothing wrong.

"Through manipulation, these fragments try to present a conversation that concerned the stability of the financial system as a case of the head of the National Bank of Poland exceeding his power, which never happened," the central bank said in a statement.

Tusk defended the two leaders and said neither broke the law. He said they were trying to "help the Polish state" and that he saw no reason to fire anyone.

Political analyst Anna Materska-Sosnowska told The Associated Press that the tapes — many of which still have not been published — reveals the vulnerability of leaders to eavesdropping. As interior minister, Sienkiewicz is in charge of the country's secret services and even he appeared unable to protect himself from being targeted

She also said that Belka, a former prime minister, has jeopardized the central bank's independence.

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