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This is for Hyphen!

Bush's Gloved Handshake a Slovak Faux Pas


BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) - It was a firm presidential handshake. But technically speaking, since he didn't take off his gloves, President Bush didn't press the flesh when he greeted top Slovak officials.

And that was an apparent violation of protocol in Slovakia, where leaders always shake with bare hands. The wardrobe malfunction caused a stir Wednesday night in Slovakia, where Bush's arrival for Thursday's meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin was shown live on national television.

Deana Lutherova, an expert in Slovak manners and protocol, said Bush's failure to remove his black leather gloves when greeting the country's president, prime minister and other dignitaries was unheard of here.

Bush kept the gloves on even when shaking hands with the Slovak leaders' wives. First Lady Laura Bush also remained gloved at Bratislava's airport Wednesday night, when the temperature was just above freezing.

A call to the State Department's protocol office inquiring what U.S. guidelines say about gloves and handshaking at the highest levels was not immediately returned.

Still, the president got it better for his departing handshakes at the airport Thursday night. The gloves had come off.

Bush and Putin hoped to keep their joint appearance focused on their agreements and close ties. One curious, rambling query gave them something to unite around - irritation with their questioner.

``The regimes in place in Russia and the U.S. cannot be considered fully democratic, especially when compared to some other countries of Europe, for example - for example, the Netherlands,'' the Russian reporter said, his preamble taking so long that Bush pursed his lips in apparent impatience.

He then asked Bush how the ``great powers that have been assumed by the security services'' in the United States since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks square with democratic values.

``We could probably talk at length,'' the journalist said.

Bush clearly wasn't interested in that. He offered a brisk retort that democracy is doing just fine in America.

``I live in a country where decisions made by government are wide open and people are able to call people to me to account, which many out here do on a regular basis. Our laws and the reasons why we have laws on the books are perfectly explained to people,'' he said.

Putin, staging his own defense of Russian democracy, took all the talk about the Netherlands to heart.

He said it's unproductive to compare which country is more democratic. Then he couldn't resist a little dig.

``You have cited a curious example, the Netherlands,'' Putin glared. ``The Netherlands is a monarchy, after all.''

The Orange Revolution and now a purple one. With all the elections and revolutions going on in the world, it's hard to keep your colors straight.

Bush gave a pro-democracy address awash in color on his stop in Slovakia.

He said the recent Iraqi elections recalled the 1989 so-called Velvet Revolution that peacefully toppled communism here, when the country was still part of Czechoslovakia.

Because Iraqi voters dipped their fingers in purple ink to prove they had voted, Bush dubbed last Iraq's election the ``Purple Revolution.''

He noted Ukraine's ``Orange Revolution'' - the campaign color of newly elected President Viktor Yushchenko that came to symbolize the nation's turn toward democracy.

And he talked about the ``Rose Revolution'' in Georgia that in 2003 propelled the reformist President Mikhail Saakashvili to power, bringing down Eduard Shevardnadze, a Soviet foreign minister. The revolution was named after the red flowers carried by protesters to underline their peaceful intentions.

On Bush's checklist for topics to bring up in his meeting with Putin: political freedom, press freedom - and Jewish book freedom.

All 100 lawmakers in the U.S. Senate signed a letter urging the Russian government to return sacred books to a New York-based orthodox Jewish group known as the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.

The Russian government returned some of the books, seized during a Soviet crackdown on religion more than 80 years ago, to the group in December 2002. But the balance remains in the possession of the Russian State Library.

Rabbi Chaim Cunin, who has been helping fight to get release of the books, said the White House told him Friday that Bush would personally deliver the senators' letter to Putin. Cunin and his brother, also a rabbi, quickly arranged flights to Bratislava and got a quick moment with Bush on a rope line.

``We thanked him for everything he is doing and wished him our blessing in persuading President Putin to do what is right,'' said Cunin, who is from Los Angeles. ``These were books that our ancestors held for years and now they are just sitting in storage.''
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