Bush Gets Rock Star Welcome in Albania

The President gets hero's welcome in Albania, where a street is named for him

ByABC News
June 10, 2007, 10:07 PM

June 10, 2007 — -- President George W. Bush got a warm welcome when he arrived in Tirana, Albania, on Sunday. In fact, it was more than warm, it was red hot.

"Among us, this is the greatest and most distinguished guest we have ever had in all times," said the Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha.

Bush is the first American president to visit the Balkan nation. He received a 21-gun salute and was greeted by cheering locals waving American flags and banners reading "Proud to be Partners." His face now appears on Albanian postage stamps and the nation is expecting a wave of babies named "George."

That is quite a contrast to his reception elsewhere. At home, his approval rating is at a near-record low. And everywhere he traveled this week in Europe, he faced protests, some of them violent. Protestors taunted him from the Czech Republic to Germany to Italy. The dramatic confrontations in Rome paralyzed parts of the city.

The pro-America fervor in Albania dates back to World War I when President Woodrow Wilson staved off efforts to split Albania among its neighbors. For his part, Bush has enhanced the U.S. reputation with his efforts to help Kosovo, which has a huge Albanian population, gain independence. Russia opposes the move.

"At some point in time, sooner rather than later, you've got to say, 'Enough is enough, Kosovo is independent,'" Bush said at a Sunday press conference.

The Albanians are also strong supporters of U.S. actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. While other countries have been withdrawing troops, Albania still keeps more than 100 troops in Iraq and has offered to triple the number of troops in Afghanistan to 140.

"You are respected by our military," Bush said. "Your soldiers are good at what they do. They're well-trained. They're disciplined. They're courageous."

The president's reception in a majority-Muslim nation is just the kind of image the president wants the world to see.

But every holiday must end. And when the president returns to Washington, he faces a no-confidence vote for his attorney general and an immigration bill in tatters.