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Wednesday, 22 May, 2002, 15:09 GMT 16:09 UK
Welcome Mr President, German press says
Workers clean the Reichstag roof ahead of Mr Bush's visit
Mr Bush is set to make an historic speech in Berlin

Despite the controversy and protests over President George Bush's visit to Berlin, the German papers are not unfriendly towards the guest from across the Atlantic.

The Berliner Morgenpost carries a succinct but sincere greeting - in English.

"Welcome, Mr President!" the paper says, noting that Berlin is the city where German-American friendship was reborn.

The paper adds that for decades, America stood guard over the freedom of West Berlin.

"Your country has given generously of itself, and we Berliners thank you from the bottom of our hearts. A radical minority will not prevail: We bid you welcome in Berlin," it says.

Remember Reagan

Switching to German, the same paper contrasts the anti-US demos held under the slogan "Axis of Peace" with a "Thank you America" rally held outside the former border crossing point Checkpoint Charlie.
German policemen checks old lamp in front of Mr Bush's hotel
Some anti-US protests are expected

It was here that former US President Ronald Reagan protested against the divided city 15 years ago.

One of the organisers from the youth wing of the conservative Christian Democrats explains: "We just wanted to signal our loyalty to America. And we believe we represent the silent majority in the city."

He says demonstrating against Mr Bush in Berlin, which after all owes America its life, is simply "absurd".

The Berliner Zeitung notes that both business circles and politicians share a desire to give the president a friendly reception.

Indeed some of them are footing the bill for full-page adverts headlined "Welcome Mr President" in most Berlin dailies and the entire national edition of Die Welt. The advert will be published on Thursday, the paper says.

Playing down rift

Die Welt notes that Mr Bush has "reacted with calm" to the demonstrations against him. It quotes him as saying on German TV he is happy to visit a land where people can "express their opinions freely".

The business daily Handelsblatt says that both Washington and Berlin are at pains to play down any differences in transatlantic relations.

The paper adds that speeches by US presidents delivered in Berlin are routinely described as either "historic or strategic".

As for the address Mr Bush is to give in the German parliament, it is expected to be of "strategic significance".

"Berlin is keen to portray Bush's brief visit not just as a staging post on the way to Moscow," the paper says.


Bush has denied that there are serious difficulties in relations between Americans and Europeans

Sueddeutsche Zeitung

Der Tagesspiegel also notes that while Berlin, Moscow, Paris and Rome are the "four stations of the president", his only major speech will be in Berlin.

"Bush's advisers have promised an historic message. It is said to be addressed to all Europeans," it says.

Critical questions

The Munich-based Sueddeutsche Zeitung joins other papers in seeking to calm troubled waters. It stresses the president's belief that the US cannot go it alone and that it needs Europe in its fight against global terrorism.

"Bush has denied that there are serious difficulties in relations between Americans and Europeans," the paper says.

All this does not mean to say the papers believe the visit will proceed entirely without pain.

The Berliner Zeitung says there will be "critical questions for Bush".

The government, it says, awaits clarification of the "further course of the battle against terrorism", in particular with regard to US intentions towards Iraq.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

22 May 02 | Americas
21 May 02 | Europe
17 Jan 02 | Americas
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