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08 Jun 07

Albanian Street Named After George W. Bush

Tirana _ Following in the footsteps of Pristina, the Tirana Municipal Council decided Friday to name a street after the 43rd President of the United States in celebration of his upcoming June 10 visit to Albania.

President George W. Bush will be the first ever American president to visit Albania, a move described as historic by the country's sitting political class and an overwhelmingly pro-American public.

After decking their capital in stars and stripes and displaying "Proud to be Partners" posters, Albanians will name a throughway after Bush to commemorate his visit for future generations.

The council voted 49 in favor of and 4 against a proposal to turn Puntorët e Rilendjes Street, which passes in front of the Albanian Parliament, into George W. Bush Street. A similar move was made in Pristina in 1999 after former American president Bill Clinton visited Kosovo following the NATO, 1999 aerial strike against Milosevic's forces.

Bush is expected to step off of Air Force One at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday for a six-hour stopover in Tirana. He plans to hold meetings with Albanian president Alfred Moisiu, Prime Minister Sali Berisha and the prime ministers of Croatia and Macedonia, Ivo Sanader and Nikola Gruevski.

President Moisiu has announced that the American president will be awarded the Order of the National Flag, the highest decoration granted to foreigners by Albania.

The visit is expected to be surrounded by tight security. The Albanian Parliament last week unanimously approved a bill allowing 500 US Marines and Special Operations Forces to use the country's land, waters and airspace without restrictions in order to secure the President of the United States. The bill permits "American forces to engage in any kind of operation, including the use of force, in order to provide security for the President of the US".

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