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Polish Prime Minister Injured in Helicopter Crash - 2003-12-05

Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller was injured when the helicopter he was riding in made an emergency landing late Thursday. But he says that will not stop him from attending a European Union summit next week.

In his first remarks after the incident, Prime Minister Miller said he would go to a European Union summit in Brussels next week, despite suffering spine injuries.

Mr. Miller told a private radio station that he would go, "even in a body cast."

The 57-year-old Polish leader and 11 other people were injured when their Soviet-era helicopter made an emergency landing in a forest near the capital, Warsaw.

None of those onboard was believed to be in a life threatening condition, although Polish media said at least one person, a woman civil servant, needed an operation for a damaged lung. A bodyguard was reportedly trapped in the wreckage.

In a statement, a government spokesperson said the prime minister's condition did not raise any serious concerns.

The accident happened after Mr. Miller returned from the south of Poland where he had opened a new stretch of highway and attended a copper miners' celebration.

The government said first indications are that the helicopter, which reportedly entered service in 1977, went down in a field because of engine troubles.

The accident happened as negotiations among 25 future and current European Union members on an EU constitution were to enter a critical stage before the document is set to be approved at the Brussels summit on December 12 and 13.

Poland, which is one of the 10 countries set to join next year, is among the most vocal critics of the draft constitution.