Bush urges hope, liberty during Dutch visit

9th May 2005, Comments 0 comments

9 May 2005, AMSTERDAM — US President George W Bush left the Netherlands at midday on Sunday after a 17-hour visit highlighted by a commemorative service at the American military cemetery in Margraten.

9 May 2005

AMSTERDAM — US President George W Bush left the Netherlands at midday on Sunday after a 17-hour visit highlighted by a commemorative service at the American military cemetery in Margraten.

Both Bush and Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende spoke at the ceremony in the south of the country and jointly thanked the soldiers who freed Europe from Nazi Germany 60 years ago. 

Bush started the day with breakfast with Balkenende at the Hotel Château St Gerlach in Houthem, where he had stayed overnight. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Bot also shared the breakfast table.

At the same time, thousands of people were streaming into the war graves cemetery at Margraten in Limburg. Amid tight security, officers confiscated lighters, umbrellas and even bottles of drink.

Some 10,000 invitations had been circulated among the public, many of whom gladly accepted the especially distributed raincoats as protection against the bleak weather.

Despite the thousands of visitors, it remained orderly at the cemetery. The same could not be said for the roads between Maastricht and Margraten several hours earlier.

Main access roads to the cemetery were closed at 5am on Sunday. However, many police officers instructed to direct traffic had been drafted in from other regions of the country and were unfamiliar with the area. As a result, traffic jams built up on country lanes and roads through villages. In addition, planned parking areas could not be used because the ground was too wet.

President Bush and his wife Laura did not notice the traffic chaos, however, as they were transported from the hotel in their armoured limousine according to a precisely planned timetable.

At the cemetery where 8,302 US soldiers are buried, the president and his wife were met by Queen Beatrix and several Dutch government ministers. Bush and Beatrix each laid a wreath shortly before 11am.

Two formations of fighter jets then flew above the cemetery. The first fly-over consisted of US fighter jets in a 'missing man' formation. Four Dutch royal air force jets made up the second formation.

After both the US and Dutch national anthems were played, Balkenende addressed the crowd, comparing international terrorism with the terror of Nazi Germany.

"We must stay vigilant because we are again being confronted with enemies of peace who want to disrupt our legal order. The message of these terrorists is one of fear and violence. Our message is one of dialogue and peace. Terrorism will not triumph. Together we also wage this fight," he said.

Balkenende also thanked US, British, Canadian and Polish troops who freed Europe from the Nazi occupation forces in the spring of 1945.

"We are more indebted to them than can be expressed in words. They gave us the most valuable present: freedom. They deserve great respect," he reflected.

Bush also thanked the troops who fell in the battle against Nazi forces. He then expressed his appreciation for the Dutch families who 'adopted' the graves of US soldiers in the autumn of 1945 and delivered 20 trucks full of flowers to the cemetery for the first Remembrance Day.

The US president said a free Europe was built after the war on the courage and sacrifice of the soldiers who helped liberate the continent: "We place ourselves in the service of truth: freedom is the born right of humankind".

He said the US and Europe are together working in the 21st century to bring liberty and hope to Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and other countries in the Middle East. "Freedom is the permanent hope of human nature."

After the ceremony ended, Bush and Beatrix shook hands with members of the public, before the president departed for the Maastricht Aachen Airport in Beek.

His plane left on schedule shortly after midday for Moscow, where Bush and other world leaders are attending on Monday a ceremony commemorating the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.

[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2005]

Subject: Dutch news

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