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At Ranch, Bush Plays Host to Spanish King

Visit Is Part of Outreach to Europeans

By Mike Allen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 25, 2004; Page A02

CRAWFORD, Tex., Nov. 24 -- President Bush has never returned a congratulatory call on his reelection from Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, a Socialist who withdrew Spain's troops from the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq after winning an upset victory over a crucial White House ally in March.

Getting back on this president's friends-and-family list can take awhile, as German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder learned after he ran an anti-American reelection campaign in 2002 and was frozen out by Bush for 17 months.

President Bush and first lady Laura Bush on Wednesday welcome King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain to his ranch in Crawford, Texas. (TIM SLOAN - AFP)

But Bush has suggested he wants to make up with Europe in his second term, and he tried to reach out to the people of Spain on Wednesday by receiving King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia for a two-hour lunch at his ranch, where he and first lady Laura Bush are spending Thanksgiving week.

Journalists were invited to record the arrival so it could be seen throughout Europe, and work space was set up for Spanish reporters at Crawford Middle School, where the White House press corps is based when the president is in residence.

"The signal we're sending?" Bush replied to a reporter's shouted question. "Spain's a great country -- and a good friend."

In keeping with custom for visits by world leaders to Bush's Prairie Chapel Ranch, the king and queen arrived in a Marine Corps helicopter bearing the presidential seal, and Bush drove to the landing pad in his white Ford F-250 pickup truck.

"Hola," he said as he stepped out of the cab. Bush left his white cowboy hat on the dashboard -- and walked over to greet the royal couple with his father, former president George H.W. Bush, and Laura Bush.

The king and queen posed for photos, with the blustery day tousling everyone's hair.

A radio reporter who had been left behind when Bush took a surprise trip to Baghdad last Thanksgiving boomed, "No secret trip this year?"

Bush got in the cab and rolled up the window, then rolled it down again. "Who yelled out there?" Bush asked with a mischievous grin, then rolled it back up without waiting for an answer.

He opened his window one last time. "Adios," he said as he drove away to give the royal couple a tour of the 1,600-acre ranch. He added, "That means 'goodbye.' "

Aides promised reporters that Bush will not go to Kabul, Afghanistan, or Damascus, Syria, or Pyongyang, North Korea, or anyplace else.

The menu for their majesties included free-range turkey, Prairie Chapel bass and mashed sweet potatoes with maple syrup and chipotle. Leftovers will be served for Thanksgiving dinner with Bush's parents and his twin daughters.

In a slight to the Spanish prime minister, Bush welcomed his predecessor, Jose Maria Aznar, to the White House for a 40-minute visit on Nov. 9, after Zapatero's courtesy telephone call. Bush has replied with a note, the White House said.

Bush has long talked about how highly he values personal diplomacy, and the Spanish visit is the latest example of several ways he is using the run-up to his second term to mend and strengthen relationships. He is scheduled to go to Canada at the end of this month to make up for a trip that was canceled when the two governments disagreed over Iraq.

Bush has said the first foreign trip of his term will be to unspecified destinations in Europe. Aides said the trip will probably take place in February and will include stops in Brussels and probably Britain.

During a joint appearance over the weekend at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Chile, Bush said he had invited Chinese President Hu Jintao to visit the United States "as soon as he can." He suggested he would make a reciprocal visit to China -- likely, according to Bush aides, in conjunction with stops in Japan, South Korea and perhaps Russia.

After Bush met Russian President Vladimir Putin at APEC, Russian officials said they expect the two to have a summit early next year. The biggest surprise of Bush's trip was his decision to tell Putin for the first time that the United States is worried that his proposed changes to the political system would over-centralize the Russian government and remove checks and balances necessary for democracy. Administration officials said Bush may meet with Putin in Europe during the February trip.

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