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Meeting with President of Albania Bamir Topi (Tirana, Albania)

As Delivered by Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon R. England, President's Building, Tirana, Albania, Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Mr. President, I thank you. I thank you for your friendship, I thank you for your very strong leadership, and for hosting this very special event. I am deeply honored by the recognition bestowed on me today.

Minister of Defense Oketa, thank you for your leadership and special thanks to you and your lovely wife Adela, for your hospitality, for your personal friendship.

Ambassador Withers, I thank you for your wonderful job in this important work of representing the United States of America here with our friends in Albania.

I want to thank all the government leaders and diplomats joining us here today. Dotty and I are very grateful for your warm welcome and your gracious hospitality you have shown to us during our visit.

Albania is a key contributor to securing cooperation and stability across the Balkans. Our countries share the goal of furthering peace and prosperity in the region.

I am particularly delighted to be here at this time, after the U.S. Senate ratified the accession of Albania to NATO. So, we are looking forward to everyone voting before next April and Albania becoming a full member of NATO. So, Mr. President, in advance, I congratulate you on this significant achievement.

Since I have been here, many people have thanked me for my assistance, but I know full well that this was all achieved through the hard work of the Albanian government and the Albanian people and, I thank them for the very good effort and, again, I congratulate them.

The U.S. and Albania share a strong partnership and a warm friendship. Over the past almost two decades, Albania and the U.S. have worked together to help the Albanian people overcome the long-term effects of communism and war.

Albania has made significant progress to date to institute much needed reform and I am very pleased in my discussions today to know that these reforms will continue and that Albania will continue to respect the independent institutions so vital in those reforms as they will help your country build a strong democracy and economy.

The U.S. stands firmly with Albania and we look forward to strengthening the bonds of friendship between our countries in the years ahead.

And, Mr. President, I want to thank you personally for your very, very strong leadership and your personal efforts in strengthening those bonds and in leading this nation. We appreciate your contributions and we appreciate your friendship and partnership.

Thank you very much, Mr. President.

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