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Two weeks after British Prime Minister Tony Blair gave a well-received address to a joint meeting of Congress, Speaker Dennis Hastert (Ill.) has asked another U.S. ally to give a similar speech.

Stopping in Madrid last week during an official tour of Europe, Hastert extended an invite to Spanish President Jose Maria Aznar. [IMGCAP(1)]

“He has been a great friend of the United States, a visionary leader for his nation, and a committed ally in the war on terrorism,” Hastert said. “I think Members of the House and Senate would benefit greatly from hearing from President Aznar.”

Spain is one of a handful of European countries that backed the war in Iraq. Only countries that were supportive of U.S. action have received visits from Hastert and the other nine House Members on the Speaker-led Congressional delegation.

“These allies have helped us in our time of need, and I wanted to thank them for that help,” Hastert said.

According to a list of joint gatherings on the House Clerk’s Web site, the only Spanish leader ever to address Congress was King Juan Carlos I in June 1976.

Before Blair’s visit, the last foreign leader to speak to a joint meeting was Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who appeared in June 2002.

Construction Zone. The Architect of the Capitol’s office will begin installation of a new traffic barrier at Constitution Avenue and Second Street Northeast today.

Construction of the barrier, to be placed in the northbound lane of Second Street Northeast, will take place between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. and is scheduled for completion by September.

— Ben Pershing and Jennifer Yachnin

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