President Bush on Thursday celebrated Chile's return to democracy as another sign of "the irresistible power of the democratic ideal."
Bush arrived here on the fourth leg of his goodwill tour of South America shortly after leftist guerrillas exploded several bombs at sites around the capital in protest of the visit, including four at chapels of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. No injuries were reported.Bush's motorcade got a generally warm welcome from crowds along the streets, but someone hurled an egg that splattered on the door of his limousine. The White House, meanwhile, welcomed as "a hopeful sign" Saddam Hussein's reported plan to free all his foreign hostages. (See story on A1.)
Bush got the news from Baghdad aboard Air Force One as he flew here Thursday from Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Bush made no mention of the Iraq situation during his remarks following a red-carpet welcome at the airport.
President Patricio Aylwin said, "Mr. President, we welcome you with joy."
"We value your presence in our land. We share common ideals," said Aylwin, elected last December as Chile restored democracy after the 17-year military rule of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.
Bush hailed Chile's return to democracy and praised the country's economic reform movement.
"Nowhere among the nations of this continent has the pace of free-market reform gone farther, faster than right here in Chile," Bush said.
"Chile's return to the ranks of the world's democracies is cause for pride and celebration," he said.
Bush said, "These past few days from Brasilia to Montevideo to Buenos Aires, I have witnessed firsthand the irresistible power of the democratic ideal. Around the world, across the Americas, a democratic renaissance is under way."
Bush and Aylwin were holding a news conference later after talks and lunch at Aylwin's private home in a middle-class Santiago neighborhood.
Bush arrived at a time when U.S. economic and military ties have been restored to normalcy with the removal of sanctions imposed during the years of military rule.