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Spain's Queen Sofia visits Haiti in another sign of growing ties between the countries
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) ' Spain's Queen Sophia started a rare royal visit to Haiti on Friday to see some of the aid projects that her country has helped finance in the earthquake-stricken country.
President Michel Martelly and first lady Sophia Martelly greeted the queen as she left her plane and a palace band played the national anthems of both countries. A group of Haitian school girls also greeted the monarch at the edge of the runway.
Martelly spoke briefly with the queen before she left the airport in a motorcade with the first lady. The president said he hoped to project an air of a new, more confident Haiti, a place recovering from the devastating January 2010 earthquake.
"It was a little opportunity for me to meet the queen, thank her, and do what I'm supposed to do: portray a new Haiti, bring confidence in our partners, our friends, let them know that this is no longer a country that wants to beg for money," he told The Associated Press. "It's not the country they thought it was."
Martelly planned to host a dinner for the queen later Friday at one of the few modern hotels in the capital.
Her three-day visit will include a tour of a clinic in Cite Soleil, a vast seaside neighborhood of shanties that is considered among the most impoverished and dangerous places in Haiti.
Spain has not traditionally had strong ties with Haiti but that seems to be changing. Martelly visited only Spain on his first trip to Europe as president.