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Originally published Monday, July 30, 2012 at 2:31 PM

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Romney praises American allies in Poland speech

Mitt Romney is praising the people of Poland and asking them to stand in solidarity with their American allies as he wraps up his first overseas trip as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

Associated Press

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WARSAW, Poland —

Mitt Romney is praising the people of Poland and asking them to stand in solidarity with their American allies as he wraps up his first overseas trip as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

Romney says he and other Americans are inspired by Poland's opposition to a government-dominated economy. The campaign released excerpts of a speech Romney is set to deliver Tuesday morning.

Romney has stumbled during his trip, inadvertently insulting Brits and angering Palestinians. On Monday in Jerusalem, he told Jewish campaign donors Monday that their culture is part of what has allowed them to be more economically successful than the Palestinians. Outraged Palestinian leaders suggested Romney's comments were racist and out of touch with the realities of the Middle East.

On Tuesday, China's official Xinhua News Agency said Romney's "hawkish remarks" could worsen an already tense Mideast situation, or even re-ignite a war between Palestinians and Israelis. Romney has been highly critical of China on the campaign trail, promising to challenge Beijing's growing influence in East Asia and get tougher with the communist government on its human rights record.

There was some tension between reporters and Romney staffers Tuesday, as the campaign was looking to Poland as a final opportunity to project the image of a leader ready to stand on the world's stage.

The two-day trip to Poland is aimed at Polish-American and Catholic voters in the U.S. and will highlight Romney's stance toward Russia. He has labeled Russia as America's "No. 1 geopolitical foe," a characterization that's not unwelcome in a country that still fears Russia.

Poles generally have been skeptical of Obama's "reset" with Russia, and Romney has cited Polish concerns in his criticism of Obama. Some in Poland and the neighboring Czech Republic were upset by the Obama administration's decision to revise the Bush-era missile defense plan for Europe, which included sites in both countries.

Romney will deliver his remarks in a deeply Roman Catholic country that for years has favored Republicans over Democrats. This is partly a legacy of President Ronald Reagan, whose efforts helped bring down communism across Eastern Europe, for which Poles remain grateful.

Poland has been a stalwart U.S. ally and significant contributor to military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Romney met Tuesday with Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski. The two men discussed the longstanding ties between the two nations as well as the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan.

"On behalf of our countrymen, I express deep appreciation for your willingness to fight with us, to stand with us, and to be our friends in times of crisis and military conflict," Romney said.

"Poland has excellent ties with the United States, regardless of which American party is in power," Sikorski said. "We remember Ronald Reagan's warm feelings for Poland's Solidarity and also the fact that we joined (NATO) during Bill Clinton's term."

Romney also visited Poland's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where he laid a wreath and greeted Polish soldiers who fought in World War II and the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. He also stopped to view a memorial to Pope John Paul II, who was born in Poland. He then met with President Bronislaw Komorowski.

The candidate ignored shouted questions from reporters about his comments on Israel and the Palestinians. Asked why Romney has taken just three questions from American reporters during this trip, traveling press secretary Rick Gorka said, "Shove it."

Romney's visit, campaign officials said, was at the invitation of Lech Walesa, the Polish labor leader who co-founded the Solidarity movement and served as Poland's president during the country's transition out of communism.

Walesa effectively endorsed Romney when the Republican presidential candidate visited him Monday at the Artus Center in a historic neighborhood of Gdansk.

"I wish you to be successful because the success is needed to the United States, of course, but to Europe as well and to the rest of the world, too. So, Gov. Romney, get your success, be successful," Walesa told Romney through a translator.

Walesa suggested Romney's leadership was needed to restore America's position in the world.

Walesa's backing is meant to influence Catholics and labor union members in the U.S. But Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, told reporters Monday that the Polish visit "is nothing more than a superficial diversion and a desperate attempt to pander to Polish Americans and Catholics across our country."

"This trip is not going to change the November election," she said.

Romney's visit to Poland has not been without controversy.

Campaign officials said the visit to Poland came at the invitation of Walesa, but the current leadership of Solidarity distanced itself from the event and issued a statement critical of Romney on Monday.

Solidarity characterized Romney as being hostile to unions and against labor rights. It emphasized that it had no role in organizing Romney's visit and expressed support for American labor organizations.

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