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George W. Bush meets Hungary

U.S. President George W. Bush, accompanied by First Lady Laura Bush, arrived at Budapest International Ferihegy Airport aboard Air Force One shortly before 8pm local time yesterday, and was met by Hungary's Foreign Minister Kinga Göncz as he stepped off the plane. The visit is accompanied by the tightest security measures the country has ever seen, rated "top priority" on the Government Security Force's five-grade scale for assessing security risks, national daily Népszava said yesterday. To date only three events have been put into this category, including two papal visits and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe summit in 1994. In addition to the deployment of over 2,000 police officers to guard the president, a U.S. Navy helicopter, armed with high-precision firearms and missiles, is patrolling the air space of the city. Three separate demonstrations by human rights and environmental groups are planned near or along the routes to be taken by the American entourage.

It would be important for visa relations between the United States and Hungary to advance, Foreign Minister Kinga Göncz said. Hungary's bid to receive a visa-waiver for travel to the U.S. is expected to be high on the agenda during President Bush's visit. "Hungary has ground to cover in this process as well," Göncz said, referring to the high rate of rejected visa applications and overstays, which the U.S. will want to see lowered before it grants Hungary the visa waiver. (MTI, MH 1-3, Nb 1, NG 2, Wed Vg 1)