- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 16, 2003

WASHINGTON, March 16 (UPI) — For his historic summit with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in December 1989, President George H.W. Bush chose the small Mediterranean island of Malta.

His son, President George W. Bush, also picked a small island for his Iraq summit Sunday with two of his closest allies, the leaders of Britain and Spain — but this island is in the Atlantic. Portuguese Prime Minister Durao Barroso also attended.

Tercera is one of the chain of nine Portuguese-owned Azores islands 900 miles west of Portugal and 2,300 miles from the United States. A peaceful tourist resort of small 16th century towns with pink-roofed houses and churches clinging to the side of rolling green hills, it advertises whale-spotting tours as its main attraction.

Tercera's past, however, is far from peaceful. The Portuguese discovered it in 1450 and first named it Isla de Jesu Cristo (Jesus Christ island). For centuries it was a port of call for galleons bringing the wealth of the Americas to Europe — and consequently a lure for pirates, who raided it with alarming frequency.

When Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar landed at the U.S. Air Force's Lajes Field — also the venue of the summit — Sunday a small group of anti-war protesters carried banners saying "Remember Philip II."

This was because in 1581, during the reign of the Spanish king Philip II, an attempt by Spain to seize Tercera ended in a major defeat for the invading force, which included the writers Miguel Cervantes and Felix Lope de Vega.

A second attempt was more successful and the island was, briefly, a Spanish colony.

These days, the Azores are an autonomous region of Portugal, with their own parliament.

For most Britons, the Azores stirs school-day memories of learning a heroic balled by Alfred Lord Tennyson called "The Revenge." In the poem a small English fleet sails from Flores in the Azores to do battle with a vastly superior Spanish fleet, and carries the day.

But the island of Tercera also had a more specific link with Britain. Lajes Field was established by the British air force in World War II as a base for tracking and attacking German submarines in the North Atlantic. The base was handed over to the U.S. Air Force in 1943.

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