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Last Updated: Sunday, 10 June 2007, 20:47 GMT 21:47 UK
Bush's Europe tour diary: Day Six

US President George W Bush has become the first US president to visit Albania, as he continues his European tour.

BBC state department correspondent Jonathan Beale is travelling with the president and recording his experiences in a daily diary.


I am told that the 1950s British comedian Norman Wisdom is a big hit in Albania. So too - now we know - is President Bush.

Both are kind of funny - in a slapstick sort of way.

Albanian soldiers put up posters
Albania is not showing much sign of protest at the visit

With Norman Wisdom it's his physical contortions. With Mr Bush it's more his verbal ones: "I appreciate you talkin' about what you're talkin' about," he said the other day.

Both have an appreciation of comic timing too. With President Bush, it's when he is being vilified for his policies around much of the globe, then turning up in Tirana to be hailed a hero.

But somehow I cannot see the chants of "Bushee, Bushee, Bushee" being chanted on the streets of Sofia. Not that there is much sign of open hostility in the Bulgarian capital, but as one wag here put it: "Albania - as isolated as ever."


President Bush has just received Albania's highest award "The Order of the National Flag". To Albania's prime minister I give the "Order of the Toady".

Professor Doctor Sali Berisha - as he wants to be known - told reporters that Mr Bush was the "...greatest and most distinguished guest we have ever had in all times".

Not sure whether the US president's beaming smile showed that he was enjoying basking in the glory - or secretly squirming inside.

No doubt this is an important visit for this tiny Balkan country. But really! Aren't they more proud of Mother Theresa?

It always seems a tad unseemly to offer such unquestioning praise - even if it's a pleasant change from listening to more Bush bashing.

And why for example - if America's so loved and such a wonderful friend - did the president's Secret Service ask the Albanian military guard - who lined the road out of the airport - to surrender their weapons?

And why did the Albanians agree to such a ridiculous request? They all looked a bit silly with their hands behind their backs in army fatigues. It can only mean that someone out there in Albania actually doesn't like Mr Bush. But today I don't think we'll find him!


Finally a country ready to welcome Mr Bush - without reservation.

US and Albanian flags line the route from the airport to Tirana centre along with huge banners - rather ambitiously - declaring "President Bush in Albania, Making History", and "Proud To Be Partners".

I'd be happy if he just made a bit of news. They've even renamed the road in front of the parliament "George Bush Street" and the post office has issued new stamps in his honour.

How on earth can this tiny country consider themselves "European"? Don't they know they're meant to be protesting not handing out bouquets?

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