- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Powell invites French

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said yesterday that he has invited French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin to visit Washington for the first time since their bitter public disagreements at the United Nations before the war in Iraq.

“My French colleague and I have been in conversation, and I expect him to come over at the tail-end of the summer or early fall,” Mr. Powell said in an interview with The Washington Times.

He added that “things are getting better” with Germany, too, as “reflected in some of the statements” German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer made in Washington last week, our State Department correspondent, Nicholas Kralev, reports.

“We’ve had disagreements with our best allies, but they are still our best allies,” Mr. Powell said.

Now that Saddam Hussein in out of power and “the reconstruction effort is under way in Iraq, you will see that there will be a level of cooperation with Europe that will reflect the importance we put on Europe and Europe puts on the United States, and the need of a strong trans-Atlantic alliance,” he said.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has been President Bush’s staunchest ally on Iraq, urged the United States in an address to Congress last week not to “give up on Europe.”

“To be a serious partner, Europe must take on and defeat the anti-Americanism that sometimes passes for its political discourse,” Mr. Blair said. “And what America must do is show that this is a partnership built on persuasion, not command.”

Poles protest visa rules

The Polish ambassador is protesting new U.S. visa restrictions on Polish citizens, especially after Poland defied major European powers and sent troops to Iraq to join the U.S.-led coalition.

“Polish citizens are not a threat to U.S. security or its labor market,” Ambassador Przemyslaw Grudzinski said in a letter to the State Department and members of Congress.

He noted that elite Polish soldiers helped overthrow Saddam Hussein and that Poland is preparing to take command of the south-central zone of Iraq.

In Warsaw yesterday, the Polish Foreign Ministry also criticized the new visa rules, which take effect Aug. 1.

“Our assessment of the new visa rules is negative,” spokesman Bogulsaw Majewski told Reuters news agency.

The rules were designed in response to the September 11 attacks carried out by terrorists who had legal U.S. visas. Visitors from most countries will have to appear before U.S. consular officers for interviews before receiving visas.

The U.S. Embassy in Warsaw last week announced that the new regulations will apply to Poles.

“By personally interviewing virtually all applicants, we are in a better position to determine a traveler’s eligibility for a visa,” the embassy said.

Mr. Grudzinski, in his letter, pointed out that Americans do not need a visa to visit Poland and questioned wether Washington appreciates what Warsaw has done.

“So far, the Polish people have not felt the full benefit of the unprecedented momentum in Polish-U.S. security and defense cooperation,” he wrote.

Mr. Grudzinski recalled that President Bush visited Poland in June 2001 and Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski came to Washington for a state visit in July 2002.

“Our bilateral relations have developed a new quality,” he said. “Based on Poland’s immediate reaction to the tragic events of September 11, 2001, our cooperation has evolved to much greater heights over the last few months.”

Mr. Grudzinski also asked the United States “for a meaningful reduction” in the cost of six used C-130 military transport planes Poland wants to buy. He said the estimated package cost is between $55 million and $75 million.

The planes would help Poland move troops and equipment so it can “actively and meaningfully participate in current and future joint military operations.”

In a related move, Russia yesterday also protested its inclusion under the new visa rules, complaining they contradict a pledge Mr. Bush made to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Agence France-Presse news service reported.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said Mr. Bush promised to “adjust the procedure for issuing visas and take additional steps to facilitate travel.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail [email protected].

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