WASHINGTON (AP) _ Congressional leaders extended a warm welcome to Czech President Vaclav Havel on Capitol Hill Thursday, describing him as an inspiration and one of ``America's favorites.''

Havel discussed Europe's problems in a series of talks with Senate Republican leader Trent Lott of Mississippi, Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota and House Republican leader Dick Armey of Texas. He also met with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at a luncheon in his honor.

The lawmakers said they would seek advice from Havel on a number of issues, including NATO and the crisis in Russia.

``For me, it's such a personal thrill to be able to have this discussion with you,'' Armey told Havel, the playwright-turned-politician who helped lead the Velvet Revolution that broke communist rule of Czechoslovakia in 1989.

``He's been an inspiration to all of us,'' said Lott.

``You're one of America's favorites,'' said Daschle.

Havel thanked the lawmakers for backing his country's membership in NATO, which is to formally welcome Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic as new members next spring.

He said that membership was not only important for the Czech Republic but also for Europe.