By Benet Koleka
SARANDE, Albania (Reuters) - Whatever the outcome of November's U.S. presidential election, the Albanian town of Sarande is backing Hillary Clinton by erecting a bronze bust to thank her for supporting Albanian causes.
Albania is a staunch ally of the United States and has a history of commemorating its presidents.
Woodrow Wilson has a statue there for helping foster the young Albanian state. So does George W. Bush, who visited Albania in 2007 and backed the independence of Kosovo, whose population is mainly ethnic Albanian.
Bill Clinton has a statue in Kosovo in recognition of his role in the bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 in support of Kosovo.
"This bust in our most central public space is an expression of our gratitude through Mrs. Clinton to the American people and state for what they have done for the Albanian people and nation," Sarande Mayor Florjana Koka told a small crowd.
It was also a tribute to Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate, as an example to women in politics, said Koka, the first female mayor of Sarande.
American tourist Jessica Rightmayer wiped away tears as the U.S. national anthem was played. "I think it is beautiful and I really think it is a very good likeness," she said.
Sculptor Idriz Balani said the idea for the statue came to him when Hillary Clinton told the Albanian parliament in 2012 that Albania and the United States had together marked the Balkan country's first centenary and would be friends for another 100 years. Her "charm, elegance and vitality" had convinced him to sculpt her.
"I used three photos to get her smile, hair, posture and attire right and kept the necklace. She exudes benevolence. I hope they like it," Balani told Reuters.
(Editing by Giles Elgood and Janet Lawrence)