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Poland Optimistic About EU Membership

Polish President Aleksander Kwasneiwski says he is optimistic about Poland's chances of joining the European Union following talks in London with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Mr. Kwasneiwski said his discussions in London focused on trade and security issues.

The president told a news conference Wednesday that he appreciates Prime Minister Blair's support for Poland to become a full member of the European Union.

"What is important for us politically [is that] Tony Blair expressed his belief that at the end of this year we can finish our negotiations," he said, "and at the beginning of 2004, exactly the first of January 2004, Poland can be a full-fledged member of the European Union."

Mr. Kwasniewski says he and Mr. Blair also discussed Poland's bid to join the NATO defense alliance, a matter that will come up at a NATO summit in Prague in November.

The Polish leader says he agreed with Mr. Blair that NATO must take into account the concerns of Russia and Ukraine.

"We discussed cooperation between NATO and Russia and Ukraine, and we have the same position," he said. This cooperation is very useful and is a good factor for strengthening the security system in Europe."

Bilateral trade was also discussed. Mr. Kwasneiwski says Britain is currently Poland's fifth biggest trading partner, but he says there is potential for much more commerce between them.