WARSAW, Poland — President Aleksander Kwasniewski, a key
U.S. ally, said yesterday that Poland was “misled”
about whether Saddam Hussein’s regime had weapons of mass
destruction and was considering withdrawing troops from Iraq
several months early.

The remarks came as polls show about half of Poles are opposed
to involvement in Iraq and after deadly bombings in Madrid —
possibly by al-Qaida in retaliation for Spain’s alliance with
the United States — triggered fears of a terror attack on
Polish soil.

Kwasniewski’s comments were the first by a Polish leader
to raise doubts about the intelligence behind the decision for
going to war. He tempered them by stressing that Poland is not
about to abandon its mission in Iraq, and said Iraq was a better
place without Saddam.

“But naturally I also feel uncomfortable due to the fact
that we were misled with the information on weapons of mass
destruction,” Kwasniewski told French reporters, according to
a transcript released by his press office.

“This is the problem of the United States, of Britain and
also of many other nations,” he later told a news

Despite his comments, U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza
Rice said she did not think Poland was withdrawing its support for
the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.

“I talked to the Poles, and they think they were a bit
misinterpreted here, because there’s been no stronger ally in
this than the Poles,” Rice said in a CNN interview.

She said President Bush and Kwasniewski had discussed the issue
of Saddam’s alleged arsenal “and they went to war for
the right reasons.”

Poland contributed 2,400 combat troops to the Iraq invasion and
now commands a 9,500-strong multinational force, making it one of
Washington’s staunchest allies. But while many Poles feel
historically close to the United States, public support for the
mission in Iraq has been tepid.

A poll last week found 42 percent of adults in favor and 53
percent opposed. The CBOS survey had a margin of error of plus or
minus three percentage points.

Kwasniewski’s criticism of the prewar intelligence also puts him
in line with widespread public sentiment in Western Europe, just
before Poland joins the European Union on May 1.

“Poland so far lacked a necessary balance before the EU
entry. It was too pro-American,” said Janina Paradowska, a
commentator for the Polityka weekly.

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