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Bush to Thank Poland For Its Support in War Against Iraq - 2003-05-30

President Bush is in Krakow, Poland, the first stop on a weeklong journey to Europe and the Middle East. He wants to personally thank the Polish people for their support in Iraq.

This is the first stop on perhaps the most ambitious trip of the Bush presidency.

Over the course of a week, Mr. Bush will visit six countries. In Europe he will seek to move the trans-Atlantic relationship forward, following differences on Iraq. In the Middle East, he will step up his personal involvement in the search for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

His mission in Krakow may be to set some of the themes for the European part of the trip. He will talk about the need to combat tyranny, wherever it may be. And he will talk about the common values and goals that bind America and Europe.

It will be a brief stay but one that is long on symbolism. It will begin with a visit to the sites of two of the Nazi death camps: Auschwitz and Birkenau.

"There's no better place to remind people that there is evil in the world than at Auschwitz," he said.

In an interview with Polish television, President Bush said he will talk about the need to combat evil wherever it is found. He said he will also thank the Polish people for their contributions around the world in the defense of freedom.

"I think it's very important for the Polish people to understand how deeply Americans appreciate their sacrifice and their courage and their willingness to work with us in Iraq and in Afghanistan," he said.

The president will deliver his only major address of the trip here in Krakow, a speech that emphasizes the common values and goals of the United States and Europe.

Those ties have been tested in recent months by differences over Iraq, and Mr. Bush will seek to ease tensions a bit during stops in two countries that opposed military action: Russia and France.

In St. Petersburg, he will attend ceremonies marking the city's 300th birthday and confer with Russian President Vladimir Putin. In the French resort of Evian, he will attend the Group of Eight economic summit and meet on the sidelines with the event host, President Jacques Chirac.

He will then go on to the Middle East, for a round of personal diplomacy that will include talks with Arab leaders, and a planned three-way meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the new Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. It will be his first visit to the region as president and his first face-to-face meeting with Mr. Abbas.

On the flight from Washington to Poland, Secretary of State Colin Powell downplayed expectations for the three-way summit. He predicted there will be no dramatic developments, saying it is just the start of a process.