Bush welcomes Polish leader to White House
'So much in common'
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush Wednesday welcomed Poland's president to the White House for a state visit, calling it a symbol of "the high importance America places on our friendship," a strategic alliance that has grown closer since the September 11 attacks.
Standing on a podium in the South Lawn, Bush, who called Poland "the central part of Europe's soul," told Aleksander Kwasniewski and his wife in an opening ceremony that he and first lady Laura Bush are honored to welcome them to a United States that is "proud to call Poland a friend, an ally and a partner."
"From military forces, to law enforcement, to terrorist financing and intelligence, Poland's support and solidarity in this great struggle has been unqualified and America is deeply grateful," Bush said.
A state visit to the United States is a high honor for a foreign leader, and the Bush administration is rolling out the red carpet for Kwasniewski because of his country's solid support of the United States' foreign policy. Bush also visited Warsaw last year.
At this morning's ceremony, Kwasniewski told Bush that "never before have we had so much in common and never before has so much resulted from these bonds."
"Our country has undergone deep internal transformation. We are a democratic country, politically and economically stable," he said. "Soon Poland will become a member of the European Union. We are a country that shares its success and experience with others to make the whole central-eastern-southern Europe the area of close cooperation and secure development."
He expressed gratitude to the United States for its help and support over the years and said Poles felt solidarity with the United States when it was attacked last year.
On the "11th of September, all of us felt (like) New Yorkers," Kwasniewski said, and later added that the government of Poland has helped take steps "to make sure there is no place in the world for terrorist madmen."
After the opening ceremony, Kwasniewski and Bush headed to the White House for meetings. Items on the agenda includes: the war on terror, U.S. investment in Poland, Poland and the U.S. economy, NATO enlargement, Polish law's limiting the independence of the free media, and the country's central bank.
Bush referred to NATO in his remarks.
"In November, the (Polish) president and I will join other NATO leaders in Prague to decide on inviting new members into the alliance," Bush said. "On this issue Poland and America stand united. We believe in NATO membership for all European democracies ready to share in NATO's responsibilities."
In the evening, the Polish president and his wife will be the guests of President Bush and the first lady at a black-tie state dinner.
On Thursday, Bush and Kwasniewski are to head to Michigan for visits with Polish-American leaders. The first ladies will travel to Philadelphia.
The last Polish state visit was in March 1991 by Lech Walesa, Kwasniewski's predecessor, with Bush's father.
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