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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 January, 2004, 12:01 GMT
Poland seeks Iraq reward
By Jan Repa
BBC Europe analyst

Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski with General Andrzej Tyszkiewicz, Polish commander in Iraq last December
Poland commands one of the four reconstruction zones in Iraq
Poland's President Aleksander Kwasniewski is expected to ask US President George W Bush to reward his country's support for the war effort in Iraq when he meets him in Washington on Tuesday.

Mr Kwasniewski will also hold talks with Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice.

Poland has given strong backing to American policy in Iraq, at the cost of antagonising important European countries like France and Germany.

It says it has so far gained few benefits from Washington.

Polish officials and the media are asking what benefits this policy has actually brought
Since freeing itself from Moscow's influence, more than a decade ago, Poland has sought to establish a close alliance with the US.

It was the only country on the European mainland to contribute combat troops to last year's American-led invasion of Iraq; and now commands one of four Iraqi reconstruction zones.

Poland also finalised a deal to buy 48 American F-16 warplanes, despite strong competition from French and Anglo-Swedish manufacturers.

Now Polish officials and the media are asking what benefits this policy has actually brought.

President Kwasniewski's national security adviser, Marek Siwiec, declared last week that Polish-Amercian relations were in danger of "stagnating".

Complaints

The Poles have three main complaints.

First, what they say are the onerous and demeaning controls to which Poles are subjected when trying to enter America.

This is election year in America, and there are approximately 10 million Americans of Polish extraction
Secondly, the small number of contracts so far awarded to Polish companies for the reconstruction of Iraq.

Thirdly, the relatively low level of American investment in Poland.

American officials say there would not be a problem with visas if so many Polish visitors did not try to work illegally.

Polish complaints coincide with tentative moves by Poland's government to try to patch up relations with France and Germany - which have been worsened by recent well-publicised disagreements over the shape of the planned new EU Constitution.

Poland is the largest of 10 countries due to join the EU on 1 May.

The Poles have been accused of overplaying their hand - both in Europe and in Washington.

But this is election year in America, and there are approximately 10 million Americans of Polish extraction.

Traditional Democrat voters, they switched en-masse to supporting President George Bush senior's Republicans during the 1980s - but could switch again.


SEE ALSO:
European summit ends in failure
13 Dec 03  |  Europe
Why Poland loves America
30 May 03  |  Europe
Europe's new heavyweight
09 May 03  |  Europe


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