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Bush Thanks Poland's President For Cooperation on War on Terrorism - 2003-01-14

President Bush met with Polish leader Aleksander Kwasniewski at the White House Tuesday. The two discussed possible military action against Iraq as well as Poland's decision to buy U.S. fighter jets.

President Bush thanked the Polish leader for his support in the fight against international terrorism and said the two countries are working together to prevent further attacks in the United States or Europe.

"We have got no better friend in Europe today than Poland. One of the reasons why is because this man has made a commitment to work together, as equal partners, in the war on terror," Mr. Bush said.

President Bush said he and Mr. Kwasniewski discussed North Korea's nuclear weapons program and the progress of weapons inspections in Iraq, including the possible use of military force if Baghdad does not agree to give-up suspected weapons of mass destruction.

President Kwasniewski said he wanted to discuss those issues before Mr. Bush decides on a course of action. "Today is the best time to discuss because before action, before last decisions, it is necessary to exchange opinions and experiences and ideas. That is a very substantial element of my trip to Washington now," he said.

The Polish leader said he also discussed his decision to upgrade Poland's air force with more than $3.5 billion worth of F-16 fighter jets.

Poland last month chose the 48 U.S.-made jets over two European bids to replace Soviet-era planes and bring the country's air force up to the standards of the NATO alliance, which Poland joined in 1999.

Part of the deal with the U.S. defense contractor Lockheed Martin is a three-billion-dollar package, which includes assembling F-16 engines in Poland, making new investments in Polish steel mills and shipyards, and generating more high-technology ventures between Polish and American companies.

President Kwasniewski said the deal gives American businesses a unique chance to accelerate their investments in Poland. "We have a chance not only to have good planes for the Polish army, not only to have a good contribution to our NATO membership but we have a chance to open a new chapter in the economic relations between Poland and the United States," he said.

Some European business leaders have criticized Poland's decision to buy U.S. jets as the country has been invited to join the European Union next year.

President Kwasniewski defended the deal saying the tendering process was transparent.