April 23, 2015 / 7:00 AM / 5 years ago

FBI chief tells Poland's U.S. envoy he regrets Holocaust remarks

WARSAW (Reuters) - The head of the U.S. intelligence service told the Polish ambassador to the United States that he regretted his remarks on what Poland has said was an accusation of complicity in the Holocaust, the Polish foreign ministry said on Thursday.

FBI Director James B. Comey leaves after a news conference on the release of the 9/11 Review Commission report in Washington March 25, 2015. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Poland now considers the matter settled, a spokesman for the foreign ministry said.

Poland is one of the United States’ closest European allies, a relationship strengthened by the conflict in Ukraine and related tensions with Russia. Polish politicians have repeatedly called for an increased U.S. military presence in the region.

FBI director James Comey’s remarks, published in the Washington Post last week, prompted an outcry in Poland and drew condemnation in the media and from politicians.

His article said: “In their minds, the murderers and accomplices of Germany, and Poland, and Hungary, and so many, many other places didn’t do something evil. They convinced themselves it was the right thing to do, the thing they had to do.”

Poland says the passage wrongly implied it was complicit in the Nazi genocide of European Jews during World War Two.

“I regret linking Germany and Poland, ... because Poland was invaded and occupied by Germany,” Comey said in a letter to the Polish ambassador released by the foreign ministry.

“The Polish state bears no responsibility for the horrors imposed by the Nazis. I wish I had not used any other country names because my point was a universal one about human nature,” he said.

Earlier this week, the U.S. State Department spokeswoman said that Comey did not intend to suggest that Poland was responsible for the Holocaust during World War Two.

But when asked by ABC-affiliated broadcaster Wate 6 on Tuesday whether he wanted to apologize for his remarks, Comey said: “I don’t. Except I didn’t say Poland was responsible for the Holocaust. In a way I wish very much that I hadn’t mentioned any countries because it’s distracted some folks from my point.”

This caused further outrage in Poland, prompting Polish officials to say that they were still expecting an apology from the U.S. side.

Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko and Wiktor Szary; Editing by Louise Ireland

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