Polish President wants to be partner of Germany

Polish President-elect Lech Kaczynski insisted he was a "partner and friend of Germany," but warned in an interview Wednesday that plans to build a center to remember ethnic Germans forced from their homes after World War II would be detrimental to their bilateral relations. Kaczynski, who as Warsaw mayor took a tough stance against Berlin and Moscow and consistently played the anti-German card during his campaign, sought in the long interview with Germany's highest circulation tabloid, Bild, to soften that stance.

"I am a decisive advocate of close relations between Germany and Poland," Kaczynski said. "I have nothing against the Germans." He acknowledged that he had never been to Germany, but said he admired Germans' "achievements, talent and culture." Kaczynski said he plans to visit his neighbor early next year.

The new Polish head of state has been viewed skeptically by Germans, who championed Poland's candidacy in the European Union and have worked over the past decade to cultivate a special relationship with their eastern neighbors.

Kaczynski indicated that despite his softened tone, he was not prepared to roll over on prickly issues, such as plans by ethnic Germans to erect a center in Berlin documenting their plight after being forced to leave their pre-World War II homes in what is present-day Poland and other parts of eastern Europe.

"It would be best for relations between our countries if this center was never built," Kaczynski said.

The future Polish president, who succeeds outgoing President Aleksander Kwasniewski, also defended his country's criticism of a recent German-Russian agreement to build a gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea, bypassing Poland.

"This pipeline, theoretically, gives Russia the possibility to cut off gas to Poland without affecting the rest of Europe," he warned, but underlined his presidency would also seek strong ties with Russia, reports the AP. I.L.

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