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Bush Praises President of Poland

July 17, 2002

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Bush and Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski agreed during a state visit Wednesday to continue the fight against threats to freedom and to boost military and economic cooperation between the two NATO allies.

``America and Poland see the world in similar terms. We both understand the importance of defeating the forces of global terror,″ Bush said as the two leaders appeared jointly before reporters after private sessions at the White House. ``Our nations also understand the importance of building a better world beyond terror.″

Bush announced that the United States would help Poland transform its military to meet NATO standards and ``improve Poland’s investment climate″ with new jobs and high-tech growth.

Kwasniewski, whose vocal support of U.S. foreign policy and war on terrorism stands in contrast to European grumbling and helped earn him the coveted state visit, said Poland is committed to remaining part of Bush’s anti-terrorism coalition as it moves into future phases of the war.

``We want to reconfirm our readiness to continue this combat,″ the Polish president said.

Before the formal East Room news conference, the second official state visit of Bush’s 18-month presidency got under way with the traditional pomp and circumstance of a South Lawn arrival ceremony. Bush hugged Kwasniewski and welcomed his wife, Jolanta, with a kiss.

Bush, speaking at the arrival ceremony, declared Poland an inspiration to the world as the two nations ``stand and fight together″ against terrorism.

Kwasniewski said, ``There is no place in the world for terrorist madmen.″

Bush said the reward of a rare state visit for Poland ``symbolizes the high importance American places on our friendship with Poland. This friendship is rooted in our common history and common values.″

He noted that Polish soldiers helped America wins its independence, and American helped Poland secure its freedom some two centuries later. There are 9 million Americans of Polish decent, an important voting bloc.

``Today, Poland and America stand and fight together for our common freedoms and to bringing those freedoms to all who seek it in the world,″ Bush said.

Kwasniewski said he came to the White House with ``the readiness and joy you feel when you come to meet your best friend.″

After the ceremony, the leaders headed to the Cabinet Room and Oval Office for meetings.

The evening was to find the Polish president and his wife the honored guests at a black-tie state dinner for 130 at the White House.

On Thursday, the leaders were switching gears from the formal to the casual, as Bush takes Kwasniewski on Air Force One to Michigan for visits with Polish-American leaders in two Detroit suburbs.

Bush, immensely popular in Poland, has hailed the NATO ally for its transformation into a democratic market economy and called the country ``an exporter of stability″ throughout Central Europe.

Kwasniewski, trying to position his country as a strong U.S. friend even as it seeks European Union membership, has in turn lavished praise on Bush and defended him against criticism from European leaders that the United States is too unilateral in its policies.

Kwasniewski wants to bring home new promises of U.S. business investment in his country. He also strongly supports expansion of NATO further eastward; the alliance is expected to welcome as many as seven new members at a November summit in Prague.

In the news conference, Bush praised, but did not commit to, a Polish proposal to increase cooperation between NATO and countries in southern and eastern Europe, not all of which may end up in the alliance.

``It’s something that caught our imagination and caught our attention,″ Bush said. ``We want to explore that with him further.″

Other items on the agenda between the two countries are Poland’s upcoming purchase of over $3 billion worth of combat planes, with European and U.S. companies vying to snare the contract, and the country’s work representing U.S. interests in Iraq.

Bush’s decision to squire Kwasniewski to Michigan reflected the political importance of a battleground state that he lost to Al Gore in the 2000 election and which is considered by White House political advisers to be of ``special concern.″ The trip also is a nod to the large Polish-American community in the state, where people of Polish ancestry make up nearly 9 percent of the population.