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British Queen Arrives in Latvia


Britain's Queen Elizabeth has hailed the long-standing ties between her country and Latvia during her historic visit to the Baltic country.

The monarch praised Latvia's struggle for freedom in a speech at a formal lunch Wednesday in the capital, Riga.

Queen Elizabeth also commended the country's progress since it regained independence from Soviet rule. She said, "who could have imagined 15 years ago that Latvia would by now be a member of the European Union and hosting a NATO summit in a few weeks?"

Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga welcomed the royal couple upon their arrival today. Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis and other top politicians and diplomats greeted them at Riga castle.

The queen's schedule today includes the unveiling of a monument to British-born former Riga mayor George Armisted.

The British monarch, who began her Baltic tour Monday in Lithuania, winds it up Thursday in Estonia.

Prince Philip has a separate program in Riga. He meets with Latvian soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and unveils a commemorative plaque at Riga's Anglican church honoring British soldiers who died in the 1919 battles for Latvian independence.

Latvia will be the first formerly Soviet-ruled country to host a NATO summit when alliance leaders gather in Riga at the end of November.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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