Former Polish President Lech Walesa has formally quit Solidarity, the free trade union he helped found almost 26 years ago and the movement that helped end communist rule in his country.

Spokesmen for Mr. Walesa says he stopped paying his Solidarity dues at the end of last year, following disagreements with the union leadership over the movement's support for Poland's new conservative administration. They say the former president will also stay away from the August 31 ceremonies marking the anniversary of Solidarity's creation.

Mr. Walesa rose to prominence in August 1980 when he led a strike by thousands of shipyard workers in the Baltic port city of Gdansk and forced authorities to negotiate and then recognize Solidarity. He later served a five-year term as Poland's president, beginning in 1990.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.