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Washington Post: Bucharest secured and beautified for NATO summit

de Radu Rizea     HotNews.ro
Luni, 31 martie 2008, 12:10 English | Bucharest

From shutting down streets and boulevards and aligning snipers to catching stray dogs, the security level in Bucharest was highly improved for the NATO summit this week, Washington Post reads, quoted by RADOR. The meeting scheduled between April 2 and 4 is the largest event ever hosted in Romania. All hotels are booked for the 3,000 delegates, including US president George W. Bush and Russia president Vladimir Putin, as well as some 3,500 journalists.

The Washington Post article:

From sealing off streets and lining up snipers to catching stray dogs, Romania has beefed up security in the capital Bucharest for next week's NATO summit of world leaders.

The April 2-4 gathering is Romania's highest profile event ever. Hotels have been booked for the 3,000 delegates, including U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as some 3,500 journalists.

Squads of workers gave the usually grimy city a frantic facelift -- planting flower beds, hanging new street signs and painting some downtown facades.

But the real focus of the event's organizers has been ensuring the security of Romania's important guests, and that has been realized on a massive scale.

Fighter jets and warships are on standby in Romania and neighboring Bulgaria, both NATO's newest members. Authorities have brought in chemical and biological warfare experts, divers and thousands of additional personnel.

Police officers have already begun patrolling Bucharest's main arteries, many of them already cleared of parked cars and the city's usually log jammed traffic.

Some sectors of Bucharest plan to prohibit the sale of alcohol during the summit. Trash cans have been dismantled and sewers sealed along official summit routes.

More controversially, workers have picked up scores of stray dogs, a legacy of communist-era housing policies when thousands of people were evicted from their villas in the 1980s and housed in drab apartment blocs.

Many household dogs were left on the streets in the process.

TAXING RESTRICTIONS

The gathering will be held in Bucharest's landmark Parliament Palace, the gargantuan product of megalomaniac dreams of communist-era dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, which now serves as the city's main tourist attraction.

On the summit's agenda are the alliance's tensions over its mission in Afghanistan and a potential deployment of additional troops there. Heads of NATO's 26 member states may also agree on further enlargement to include Croatia, Macedonia and Albania.

For the capital's 2 million inhabitants, the summit is already taxing as restrictions have concentrated traffic in Bucharest's outer areas.

"It takes forever to get to the centre. ... We won't have any peace until this is over," said Florica Gheorghe, a 77-year-old pensioner.

With more than 9,000 inhabitants per square kilometer, Bucharest is one of Europe's most crowded and polluted cities. Nearly 1 million cars are trapped daily in sooty traffic along main boulevards, most lined with decaying buildings.

Officials hope the summit will catch the eyes of foreign tourists and boost the city's popularity.

"If we were able to organize the world's youth festival in 1950s I don't see any reason why we could not organize a NATO summit these days," President Traian Basescu told foreign journalists earlier this week.

(WP reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Mary Gabriel)
























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