The US president, George Bush, today began his European tour with a gaffe - mispronouncing the Spanish prime minister's name in a television interview.
Mr Bush was mocked during the US election campaign for his relative ignorance of international affairs, but had always maintained he could speak Spanish.
But in the interview he referred to Jose Maria Aznar as "Anzar" and employed a mangled grammar, placing the emphasis on the wrong parts of words and confusing gender.
"I have to practice this very lovely language," Mr Bush told the interviewer. "If I don't practice I am going to destroy this language."
The president's Spanish hosts later managed a revenge of sorts as Mr Bush and his national security adviser, Condoleeza Rice, visited King Juan Carlos and Mr Aznar at a palace just north of Madrid.
Playing on the fact that many senior White House officials are said to be studying Spanish, the king greeted Ms Rice by saying "Buenos dias, Arroz" - literally, "Good morning, rice", as in the food.
Ms Rice reacted with a big smile.
At the meeting, Mr Bush is expected to begin his attempts to convince European leaders that Washington is still a "trustworthy friend".
During Mr Bush's five day trip he plans to push the case for national missile defence (NMD) - the so-called "Son of Star Wars" system - and to deflect European criticism of his administration for pulling out of the Kyoto treaty on global warming.
"I'm used to explaining positions that some people don't agree with," the president said. "I think the Europeans are going to find that they have got a trustworthy friend in the Bush administration, one that will stay steady and true."
Tomorrow, Mr Bush meets Nato officials in Brussels and on Thursday will attend an EU-US summit in Gothenberg, Sweden.
After a state visit in Poland on Friday, Mr Bush travels to Slovenia to meet the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.
Mr Bush hopes to bolster his case for NMD and convince Russia's president that the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty between the United States and former Soviet Union is obsolete.
"The cold war attitude that Russia and the United States will make the world more peaceful by mutually assured destruction, I think ought to be set aside," he said.
"There is a new threat as well, and that is the capacity of some nations to be able to point a missile at the United States or allies, Russia or anywhere else in the European continent and therefore hold us hostage."
On other issues, Mr Bush said he will reassure European leaders that he remains committed to peacekeeping in the Balkans.
He will also say that the United States strongly supports Nato but does not believe that any nation should have veto power over the expansion of the alliance.
On trade, Mr Bush said he would talk about ways to resolve disputes soon after they arise. "I will reiterate my strong belief that trade, active trade, is beneficial for the United States economy as well as our trading partners," he said.
Before he left Washington yesterday evening, Mr Bush promised new technological initiatives on global warming and urged for a united global front to confront climate change, citing a clear link between man-made pollutants and increases in the Earth's surface temperature.
But he stopped short of urging mandatory restrictions on emissions and renewed his earlier criticism of the Kyoto treaty.
"We do not know how much effect natural fluctuations in climate may have had on warming. We do not know how much our climate could, or will change in the future. We do not know how fast change will occur, or even how some of our actions could impact it," he said.
© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2001