TIRANA (AP)--U.S. President George W. Bush Friday thanked Albania for increasing its troop presence in Iraq and praised Tirana's stand on regional issues in the Balkans.
In a letter sent to Albania's Prime Minister Fatos Nano, Bush said Albania's decision was "another indicator of Albania's continuous and deep commitment in the fight against terrorism around the world and for security, peace, stability and democracy in Iraq."
In February Albania, a small, predominantly Muslim country that has been one of the most vocal backers of the U.S.-led campaign in Iraq, where it has deployed a small unit of 71 troops in the Iraqi city of Mosul, decided to increase their number to 120.
Thirty-eight countries have provided troops in Iraq at one point or another. But 14 nations have permanently withdrawn since the March 2003 invasion, and today's coalition stands at 24.
Bush also praised Albania's moderate role in the Balkan region. Albania, Croatia and Macedonia have signed the Adriatic 3 Charter, a U.S.-backed initiative outlining a common military strategy aimed at promoting regional cooperation, in 2003.
"The United States continue to strongly support Albania's aspiration for a full integration into the Euro-Atlantic community," wrote Bush.
The U.S. President, however, reminded Tirana that the general elections expected in July were "an important moment" and that they should be held according to democratic standards. [ 08-04-05 1629GMT ]