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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 February, 2005, 10:29 GMT
Bratislava markets summit 'brand'
Bush-Putin summit stamp
Slovakia is proud to put its stamp on the summit
Slovakia is relishing being in the world's spotlight as it hosts the summit between US President George Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin in the capital Bratislava.

To mark the occasion, the Slovak Post Office has issued a commemorative stamp, showing the US, Slovak and Russian flags and Bratislava Castle.

The first day cover depicts some of the capital's historic buildings and the River Danube.

A massive security operation is in full swing, with some 5,000 police officers on duty and MiG jets patrolling the skies.

Bratislava brand

Hosting the summit is an excellent opportunity to promote Bratislava, its mayor says.

"We expect the summit to strengthen instant recognition of the Bratislava brand as that of a historic town in Central Europe, an attractive tourist destination in the so-called new Europe," Mayor Andrej Durkovsky told the BBC.

Mounted police/Bratislava castle
Bratislava Castle - the summit venue - is under tight security

His pride was echoed by Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda.

"I'm very happy that Bratislava can offer a good platform [for dialogue]," he told the BBC.

"I feel the leaders in Russia have understood our policy is not oriented against somebody, but oriented to get our country into western society," he said.

But not everything went entirely smoothly for Slovakia ahead of the summit.

Slovak President Ivan Gasparovic admitted this week that Bratislava was still short of proper facilities for such occasions, and needed to build more of them.

'America defends freedom'

City officials hope the summit will boost foreign investment.

"Bratislava is seeking to attract international developers," says Mayor Durkovsky. "And from this point of view, the attention of the world media during the summit might help."

The mayor will have an opportunity to promote his town personally, when he accompanies both First Ladies, Laura Bush and Lyudmila Putin, around Bratislava's sights.

Since emerging from the communist bloc Slovaks have been keen to stress their western credentials.

"Slovak people think America defends freedom and people remember very well that the US fought against communism," one told the BBC.

But another felt Slovakia remained closer to Russia.

"I don't think people really like Americans so much here, especially because they make so much trouble for us to get over there with visas," he said.

"I think Putin is more popular here than Bush, and I think he'll get a better welcome than Bush, because we are more to the east than to the west."

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