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GMA, Bush congratulate each other

President Arroyo swapped congratulations yesterday with newly installed US Pre-sident George W. Bush, whom she invited to vi-sit the country later this year.


Bush called up Mrs. Arroyo at her office in Malacañang at around 8 a.m. (Manila time) yesterday while he was at the White House in Washington, DC.


Acknowledging that their conversation was taking place from opposite ends of the world, the two leaders expressed their respect for each other, both being on their third day in office.


"I think we’re the freshest faces in the presidential ranks in the world," said Bush, according to a transcript released by the Palace.


Mrs. Arroyo replied that she has many things in common with the American leader. Both of them, she said, were children of former presidents.


Bush said he called just to congratulate Mrs. Arroyo, who became the country’s 14th president after Joseph Estrada was forced from office last Saturday at the height of the people power II popular revolt.


"I want to call to just congratulate you, to tell you I am keenly aware of how important bilateral relations are with your country. And just to wish you all the best and if I can assist you in any way, I would like to," Bush explained.


Mrs. Arroyo replied that she also wanted to congratulate Bush "for winning 78 percent of all the counties and three-fourths of the states." Her detailed remark impressed the US president.


"Well, thank you. You look like you are paying attention to American politics," Bush said.


"Of course," Mrs. Arroyo retorted. "Your country is very important to us. Our relationship is very important and I am looking forward to greater enhancement."


Bush admitted that he has been reading a lot of "background information" on the new Philippine leader, apparently alluding to the high credentials of Mrs. Arroyo, who was a classmate of former US President Bill Clinton at Georgetown University where she received her master’s degree in economics.


He said he was impressed by Mrs. Arroyo’s background and that he believes the Philippine president would do her job well and work to make the world peaceful.


It was at this point that Mrs. Arroyo raised the possibility of meeting with Bush in the Asia-Pacific Economic Congress leaders’ summit in Shanghai, China this November. She also invited him to visit the Philippines on his way to the event.


The President informed Bush that this year will mark the 50th anniversary of the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty and that the US president could pass by Manila on his way to Shanghai or on his way back.


"That’s a very good idea," replied Bush, who said he would relay the information to US Secretary of State Collin Powell.


Leaders of various governments, including the United Nations, have recognized Mrs. Arroyo as the country’s new president. In her first day in office last Monday, US Assistant Secretary of State Ralph "Skip" Boyce paid her a visit to express US support for her administration.

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