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Pop Diva Brings Christmas Cheer

Pop diva Mariah Carey criss-crossed Kosovo by helicopter Tuesday to bring some Christmas cheer to U.S. peacekeeping troops.

"We want to give them a little glamour," said the 31-year-old singer about her "day out with the boys in the Balkans."

The troops loved it, whooping and hollering with delight as she swooped in on a Chinook helicopter for a performance to boost the morale of troops serving in the Balkans.

The soldiers greeted her as if they had not seen women in months, especially a blonde pop superstar bedecked in revealing military fatigues.

"Boy, what a crowd," she said as the troops lifted her shoulder high.

"This sure is Mariah-mania," said one soldier as they surged forward to glimpse one of the world's biggest recording stars.

Her top priority, she told Reuters on the flight out, was to boost morale for the American peacekeeping troops stationed there. "I think it is important as they are not going to have much of a holiday season. We just wanted to come here and support them.

"We were in Europe doing promotion and thought it might be something nice to do because not many people make it to Kosovo," said the star, who has had 15 Number One singles and sold more than 150 million records worldwide.

Fellow pop star Janet Jackson cancelled her European tour amid safety concerns after the September 11 attacks in the United States. Carey had no such qualms.

"I have a different philosophy to a lot of people," she said. "Traveling and being around different fans around the world is kinda what keeps me going. It's a different thing. I don't do well just staying home and staying stationary in one place. I feel better being around people and doing things like this."

"That certainly was quite some reception," she said. "They gave me a very nice welcome and I feel very safe and protected."

She did confess to Reuters: "It was little bit unnerving at the beginning. The helicopter ride flipped me out a little bit -- I ain't going to lie."

"I could hear everything they were saying in the headphones in different languages. We weren't able to take off for about 30 minutes," she said of the delay before receiving clearance to fly out from Skopje in Macedonia to three U.S. camps in Kosovo.

Carey, wrapping up her whistle-stop tour with a concert for the troops, got a rousing reception everywhere she went.

Soldiers, their weapons slung over their backs, lined up in the canteen at Camp Monteith in Gnjilane to get her to autograph photos, baseball caps, T-shirts and her latest album "Glitter."

Like a trooper, she trudged through the mud, braved the icy cold and clambered on to a Humvee jeep for group photos with the troops. The only pause came when her make-up artist quickly fixed Carey's hair for yet another photo opportunity.

"She is a diva. Who wouldn't be a fan?" said Private First Class Duane Stelzik from Chicago. Puerto Rican Roberto Quintana was euphoric: "This is so great for the soldiers, especially beore Christmas."

New Yorker Jahmar Gordon was not disappointed. "I have been thinking about this for a week. For me she is way, way up there."

The year 2001 has been one that the New Yorker would be more than ready to put behind her.

In July, the singer spent two weeks being treated for what her publicist called "emotional and physical breakdown."

Virgin Records had to delay the release of her first album under a lucrative new $80 million deal and then her biopic movie "Glitter" was panned by critics.

But the roller-coaster year was put firmly behind her on Tuesday as Carey went to meet the troops. "This is the first time I have ever done anything like this and definitely never anywhere as remote as Kosovo. We are all excited."

And there certainly won't be any tantrums about the concert set, however makeshift.

"On my live shows I just wing it and do whatever. If the worst comes to the worst I'll just sign autographs and hang out and trim the (Christmas) tree with them."

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