President Bush welcomed Polish President Lech Walesa Wednesday with the news that the United States will forgive 70 percent of the debt Poland owes to the U.S. government.
"We want your economic transformation to succeed and your new democracy to flourish, and we call on other nations to follow our example," Bush told Walesa in an arrival ceremony on the White House lawn.Walesa, speaking in Polish through an interpreter, said the action reduced "a major part of our debt burden."
"Your personal involvement in this course has for Poland a historical dimension," he told Bush. "It gives a new great possibility."
Walesa closed his remarks with a few words in English: "God bless you, Mr. President. God bless America."
Walesa said Poland "is becoming a country of new economic opportunity" and invited the United States to participate. Bush said Secretary of Commerce Robert Mosbacher would lead an investment mission to Poland this summer.
The United States and other Western nations agreed Friday to reduce Poland's debt to their governments, which totals $33.5 billion, by at least 50 percent. The U.S. share of the debt is $2.9 billion.
"The United States worked long and hard to achieve that unprecedented agreement, and we encourage other creditors to join us in going beyond that 50 percent level," Bush said. "We certainly shall. We will reduce your indebtedness to a full 70 percent."
The White House said the presidential action will have the effect of increasing the reduction in Poland's total debt to Western governments to 52 percent from the 50 percent pledged by the Western nations.
Bush also announced a trade-enhancement initiative for Central and Eastern Europe.
A White House fact sheet said this would involve a $182.4-million expansion of duty-free imports from Central and Eastern European countries, including $93.3 million from Poland.
In addition, the president announced the establishment of an American business center in Warsaw.
The president said he had asked Congress to increase grant assistance to Central and Eastern European countries to $470 million, half again last year's request.
About 60 demonstrators organized by the National Organization for Women demonstrated in favor of abortion rights across Pennsylvania Avenue from Blair House, the guest quarters near the White House where Walesa is staying.
Walesa, a Roman Catholic, is opposed to abortion.