Slovakia proudly hosts Bush-Putin summit, US President to meet Czech 'Freedom Fighters'

24-02-2005

"You can imagine how happy and proud I am now because it will be the first time that Slovakia hosts the US President and this is more than a clear signal that Slovakia is an ally of the United States. I am sure that this is a very strong message not only for the Slovak people but also for all new democracies in the region." The Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda, proudly representing the country chosen by US President George Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin to host their landmark meeting.

US President George Bush with the Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda, photo: CTKUS President George Bush with the Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda, photo: CTK Our colleague Alex Rosenzweig is on the line from Bratislava. Alex, with two of the world's most influential figures in the Slovak capital, I imagine the city has been turned into one big fortress?

"Indeed so. As you can imagine, with such high stakes, Slovakia has really laid on tight security. Actually, there are over 5,000 police officers here and 400 fire fighters. And then there are the local and foreign secret services. They say that until President Putin leaves the country on Friday, the Slovak capital will be the most secure city in the world. Actually, two Slovak MiG fighter jets are protecting the sky, two more are standing by, and it is worth saying here that Slovak airspace is closed for the duration of the summit. Besides this, even if no big demonstrations are expected in Bratislava, armoured vehicles are patrolling the capital's streets - some equipped with water canon, and the police are also patrolling the area with dogs sniffing for explosives."

Now, besides Vladimir Putin and senior Slovak government officials, Mr Bush was also scheduled to meet the former Czech Ambassador to Washington Alexandr Vondra and the Czech writer Ivan Klima.

"George Bush wanted to meet former dissidents from Central and Eastern Europe and some dissidents from current totalitarian regimes like Belarus. Washington calls these dissidents 'Freedom Fighters'. Among the happy few to meet Mr Bush was the writer and former Czech dissident, Ivan Klima. He told me a few words before meeting the American president":

"I'm hoping to thank the US President for what the Americans did for us when we were dissidents in communist Czechoslovakia - they were truly very supportive of us. With regards to current affairs, they don't concern me that much. But should there be time to say more to Mr Bush, I would use it to say that Islam and the Muslim community are much more complicated for us to understand than they seem. But I guess he has his own advisors to tell him that."

24-02-2005