U.S. Offers Army Aid to Poles

WASHINGTON -- Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said U.S. President George W. Bush on Monday removed key stumbling blocks in negotiations to allow U.S. missile defense interceptors on Polish soil.

In a joint appearance after the two leaders met in the White House, Bush said that he had assured Tusk that the United States would develop a concrete plan for helping Poland modernize its military "before my watch is over" in January.

Before the visit, U.S. negotiators had tried to seal the deal with Poland by opening a separate negotiating track on the Polish demands. They had sought to leave promises vague.

But Tusk seemed pleased with what he heard from Bush, saying it was significant that the missile defense program and the U.S.-aided modernization of the Polish military would be considered all in "one package."

The U.S. missile defense plans have become one of the thorniest issues in U.S.-Russian relations.

Russia opposes the plan to build part of the U.S. global missile defense system so close to its borders, arguing it would undermine Russia's deterrent. The Polish government argues the security backing is necessary because Russia has threatened to target Poland with nuclear missiles if it allows the interceptors.

The White House denied the suggestion that the military help is a reward for Polish agreement on the interceptors or that it is needed because of a Russian threat to Poland.

"It is certainly not a quid pro quo," White House press secretary Dana Perino said. "Who is suggesting that Russia is going to attack anybody?"