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U.S. president given flag, but expresses thanks for poncho

August 27, 1997

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) _ Thanks for the poncho, President Clinton told his Romanian hosts. Trouble is, the gift was a flag.

If it was an error, it was understandable. After all, the Romanian tri-color flag presented to Clinton during his visit in July did have a head-sized hole in the middle.

But flags with the centers ripped out are the norm in Romania these days. With holes where the hated communist emblem used to be, such flags symbolize the 1989 anti-Communist revolt that led to the establishment of democracy.

Whether it would make good rain gear is another question, although Clinton’s hosts were amused when word leaked out he had thanked his hosts for a poncho.

``I’d like to see Bill Clinton on television dressed in the poncho made from the Romanian flag,″ Petre Roman, head of the Romanian Senate, said Wednesday in comments carried by the daily Evenimentul Zilei.

Roman thrust the flag at Clinton during the president’s visit, in a memorable scene caught by national television and many photographers.

White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said the president only jokingly referred to the flag as a poncho in the thank-you note.

``He obviously knew what it was. It was just a light-hearted comment,″ Lockhart said.

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