Bush honours second world war dead

US President George Bush will mark the 60th anniversary of the end in Europe of the second world war with a visit to the graves of US soldiers in the sleepy southern Dutch village of Margraten.

    Bush hailed the Allied victory as a defeat of 'evil'

    After breakfast with Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende and a round-table with young Dutch professionals, Bush will travel to Margraten for the commemoration ceremony.

    At the military cemetery near Maastricht, where more than 8000 US soldiers killed during the Allied assault on Nazi Germany are buried, Bush will give his only public speech on Victory in Europe Day (V-E Day).

    He is expected to draw a parallel between the struggle against totalitarianism 60 years ago and the fight against terrorism today.

    Historical parallels

    Before departing for the Netherlands on Saturday, Bush said in Riga, capital of the former Soviet republic of Latvia, the end of the second world war in Europe was "a great triumph of good over evil".

    Margraten has been transformed
    into a high-security zone

    "We honour the brave Americans and Allied troops who humbled tyrants, defended the innocent, and liberated the oppressed. By their courage and sacrifice, they showed the world that there is no power like the power of freedom - and no soldier as strong as a soldier who fights for that freedom," he said in his weekly radio address released in Riga.

    For the commemoration service, the sleepy town of Margraten, in Limburg's rolling green hills, has been transformed into a high-security zone.

    More than 10,000 people, including 100 Dutch and American veterans, are expected to listen to Bush's speech and watch the commemoration service in the presence of Dutch Queen Beatrix and Balkenende.

    Tight security

    About 3000 police and military personnel have been deployed to ensure Bush's safety. Dutch air space will be closed during that period for all traffic, and planned commercial flights and several highways around Margraten and nearby Maastricht will be closed off for hours at a time.

     "We honor the brave Americans and Allied troops who humbled tyrants, defended the innocent, and liberated the oppressed"

    George Bush,
    US president

    Spectators will have to undergo strict security checks. They must be at the cemetery several hours in advance and have been told not to bring video cameras, flags, lighters or umbrellas. In case of rain, highly likely in the Netherlands, the municipality of Margraten will distribute free ponchos.

    Bush has chosen to mark the occasion at Margraten because of the special relationship the people of the town have with the soldiers buried there. Margraten was the first and until recently the only cemetery in Europe where locals ''adopted'' graves.

    For decades the people of the village have cared for the graves of ''their'' soldiers with regular visits and flowers on special occasions. Several villages in Normandy in France have since followed the example.

    Talk of the town

    On Saturday the village, population 3700, was in eager anticipation of the US president. American and Dutch flags lined the road between Maastricht and Margraten.

    "In Margraten there is an American atmosphere now. Bush's visit is the talk of the town and will be for weeks to come," Ger Qualen, the owner of the local Chriske pub, said.

    After the service at Margraten is over, Bush will immediately leave the Netherlands for Russia where he will meet President Vladimir Putin in the evening before Russia's official commemorations of the end of the second world war on 9 May, attended by 60 world leaders.



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