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Bush-Kwasniewski Talks Focus on Polish Military, Iraq, US Visa Policies - 2004-01-27


President Bush has announced a new package of military aid for Poland, a key U.S. ally in Iraq. Mr. Bush spoke at the start of talks at the White House with Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski.

President Bush says the extra money for Poland is included in the 2005 budget request he will send to Congress next week.

"In my '05 budget request, there is a $66 million request to help the Polish military, particularly with airlift capacity, such as C-130 aircraft," he said.

Mr. Bush praised the Polish army as a sophisticated, fine group of soldiers. He says Poland needs transport aircraft, and the United States is willing to help.

But the president has no clear-cut answers to another issue high on the agenda for Mr. Kwasniewski's visit to Washington. Poland says U.S. visa restrictions are too strict, and has complained about new American rules requiring visitors to be photographed and fingerprinted.

When asked about the matter by a Polish reporter, the president said the United States will try to pre-screen travelers from Poland before they arrive in the United States. But he stressed that any change in visa rules would have to be approved by the United States Congress. He called it a delicate problem and said high level consultation will begin soon.

In a written statement released after the talks, the two leaders stress that despite the frictions over visas, they remain strong allies. They pledge to deepen their strategic alliance, an alliance which they say is rooted in shared values and a common struggle for freedom.

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