Bush Greeted As A Hero
After the scenes of rioting in Rome that marked President Bush's first official visit to see the 'new' Pope, Benedict XVI, the president must have been looking forward to his next stop, where he knew he would be greeted far more warmly.
No rioting in the streets for this visit. Albanians were happy to see the president visit, and even the BBC had to admit he "enjoyed a here's welcome" :
The Balkan country is a staunch ally in America's "war on terror", and Mr Bush met Albanian soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Mr Bush reiterated his support for the UN plan for Kosovo's independence, adding it was time to "get moving" despite opposition from Russia.He expressed worry about the effect on Kosovans of expectations not being met.
"The question is whether there's going to be endless dialogue on a subject that we've already made up our mind on," he said, after meeting with Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha.
"We need to get moving and the end result is independence," he added.
Or a brutal clash with Russia, who has no interest in granting Kosovonians their independence. At least, not yet.
Albanian government spokesman Grid Roy said he hoped the visit would help the country's push to become a member of Nato and the European Union.
The G8 failed to reach consensus on Kosovo this week, with strong opposition from Russia to the independence blueprint laid out by UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari in April.
The Albanian capital, Tirana, is celebrating Mr Bush's visit, although he is spending just seven hours in the city....The city's streets have been cleaned, US flags draped over buildings and a commemorative set of stamps issued for the occasion.
Albania, Croatia and Macedonia are Europe's newest democracies, and Bush often singles them out for praise when he talks of his "freedom agenda", and his dreams of America helping to
transform more of the world's "darkest corners" by democracy.
From the Associated Press :
Bush Takes Shots At Russia With Calls For Kosovo's Independence
The hills overlooking the capital boomed as military cannons fired a 21-gun salute heralding Bush's arrival. Thousands of people gathered in the downtown square on a brilliantly sunny day to see the president and first lady Laura Bush.
Huge banners proclaimed ''Proud to be Partners,'' and billboards read ''President Bush in Albania Making History.'' Red-white-and-blue paper top hats with stars on top were passed out to well-wishers in this Balkan nation. Albania has such an affinity for America that it issued three postage stamps with Bush's picture and the statue of liberty and renamed a street running in front of parliament in his honor.
Bush said he wants to encourage Albania's free society, but it also makes good political sense on the world stage for him to stop in Albania, if only for about seven hours, and be seen receiving a robust greeting in the predominantly Muslim country.
''I want to make sure the Albanian people understand that America knows that you exist and that you're making difficult choices to cement your free society,'' Bush said in a pre-trip interview. ''I'm coming as a lover of liberty to a land where people are realizing the benefits of liberty.''
''There's a certain map that has to be followed, a certain way forward, there are certain obligations that have to be met,'' Bush said. ''My only advice is: work as hard as you possibly can to achieve the different benchmarks that would cause the NATO members to accept Albania.''
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