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Bush Thanks Poles for Supporting Iraqi Democracy

By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 9, 2006 – The United States and Poland are friends in liberty, President Bush said while hosting Polish President Lech Kaczynski at the White House today.

"I thank the president and the Polish people for their support of the democracy movement in Iraq," Bush said. "We're strong allies and friends. We're friends in liberty, and we believe in peace."

Poland has troops serving in both Iraq and Afghanistan. In September 2003, the Poles assumed command of the Multinational Division Central South in Iraq, and along with their multinational partners have helped train Iraqi forces and stabilize the south central part of the country, officials said.

The two presidents also spoke today about issues related to freedom in Europe. "President (Bush) and myself have discussed issues relating to freedom in the Ukraine and Belarus," Kaczynski said, "and the support of the United States for all actions that are leading to freedom in Ukraine and Belarus are very important for Poland at the same time."

Bush remarked that he was amazed to be sitting next to a man who had once lived under a totalitarian regime in communist Poland. "And now he's the president of a free country," he said.

In 1989, communism in Poland crumbled, and the following year, Lech Walesa, a Solidarity movement leader, became the first popularly elected president of Poland. Every Polish government since has been a strong supporter and ally of the United States.

Aside from the global war on terrorism and democratization, Poland has worked closely with the U.S. on issues ranging from nuclear proliferation to human rights and regional cooperation in Europe, according to the U.S. State Department Web site.

The two countries are also both NATO members. The U.S. was one of the 12 founding members of the defense alliance in 1949; Poland became a full NATO member in 1999.

This was Kaczynski's first visit to the White House since taking office Dec. 23.

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Related Sites:
Transcript of Meeting Remarks
State Department Background Notes on Poland

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