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Big Israeli welcome for tiny Pacific ally
JERUSALEM (Reuters) -- Israel gave a hero's welcome on Wednesday to the president of Micronesia, whose tiny Pacific island state has stood beside it in the face of world condemnation.
Israelis rolled out a red carpet for the four-day visit of President Leo Falcam, while their largest newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, published a three-page spread under the headline "A Friend from Another World."
Israel's love affair with Micronesia stems from its being the only country in the world besides the United States to side with Israel in U.N. General Assembly votes overwhelmingly critical of the Jewish state.
Israel was the first non-Pacific nation to recognize the Federated States of Micronesia. Micronesia was a U.S. protectorate before its 1986 independence. Both countries rely on U.S. financial aid.
Falcam told Israel's Army Radio he was overwhelmed by the attention he had received. He was due on Wednesday to visit Christian sites in Galilee, where Jesus once lived.
"I have a dream that one day I will stand before the Sea of Galilee and remember where Jesus Christ was walking around and fishing," Falcam said.
He was due to meet Israeli President Moshe Katzav on Thursday and Prime Minister Ehud Barak on Friday.
Israel sends advisers in various fields to the islands, situated 5,150 km (3,200 miles) west-southwest of Honolulu in the North Pacific Ocean. The islands are home to 130,000 people.
"I really would like to thank the state of Israel for sending a coach to bring the caliber of our (football) team up to a level that we had never seen before," he said.
"I could go on touring Israel if I had the time."
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