U.S. President George Bush and Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev met at the White House Wednesday for talks on nuclear energy, Iraq, and Kosovo. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

President Bush thanked Prime Minister Stanishev for the role Bulgaria is playing in the Western Balkans.

"You have been a constructive force for stability and a constructive force for hope," he said.  "You have projected a hopeful future for the people in Kosovo and Serbia and I want to thank you for that. It's really important that there be leadership in the neighborhood and you provided it."

Kosovo unilaterally declared its independence from Serbia in February and won immediate diplomatic recognition from the United States and most of the European Union.

But Serbia and Russia are determined to prevent the mainly ethnic Albanian nation from gaining a seat at the United Nations.

Kosovo has been administered by the United Nations and protected by NATO peacekeepers since June of 1999 following a NATO bombing campaign against Serbian forces.

Prime Minister Stanishev says there are still many wounds to be healed from the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, but he believes the international community is determined to succeed.

"We see our role in the region as a country which is bridging and guaranteeing stability both for the Western Balkans and for the broader Black Sea area which is very important because without stability in the Balkans, without European perspective and NATO perspective for these countries, we cannot speak about real prosperity and democracy in the region," he said.

The president and prime minister also discussed wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, U.S. visas for Bulgarian citizens, and the future of nuclear power in both the United States and Bulgaria.