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Hillary Clinton Says Poland Belongs in Western Family of Nations

Warsaw, July 3 (RFE/RL) -- Hillary Clinton, the wife of the American President, praised Poles for their developing democracy on a visit to Warsaw today and said the country belonged in the Western family of nations.

The statement was seen as tacit support for Poland's desire to become a member of NATO in the near future. But U.S. officials said Mrs. Clinton's statement did not represent any change in Washington's policy on NATO expansion.

On her third day of an 11-day European tour, Mrs Clinton also did some campaigning for her husband, who is seeking re-election in the United States later this year.

Mrs. Clinton repeatedly referred to the 10-million-strong Polish American community, which is seen as a key voting block in a number of U.S. states.

In a speech at Lazienki Palace, Mrs. Clinton said millions of Americans trace their origins to Poland. But she said the strong bonds between the two countries consist of more than blood. In her words,"the values of democracy and freedom are in the very fibre of our being - we Americans and Poles."

Mrs. Clinton will leave Warsaw this afternoon and is expected to arrive in Prague where she is scheduled to have dinner with Czech President Vaclav Havel later this evening.