Bush Snr: My son is an honest man

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The Independent US

The former US president George Bush Snr was forced into a defence of his son, the current President, during a visit to United Arab Emirates yesterday, when George Bush Jnr's Middle East policies were derided by a hostile audience.

"My son is an honest man," Mr Bush told Gulf Arabs at a leadership conference in Abu Dhabi, after an audience member said Mr Bush Jnr and his policies were not respected. "He is working hard for peace. It takes a lot of guts to get up and tell a father about his son in those terms when I just told you the thing that matters in my heart is my family." Mr Bush, President from 1989 to 1993, added: "How come everybody wants to come to the United States if the United States is so bad?"

He said he had faced tougher audiences but that attacks on his sons hurt more than those on him.

The oil-rich Persian Gulf used to be safe territory for Mr Bush Snr, an oil man who brought Arab leaders together in a coalition that drove Iraqi troops out of Kuwait in 1991. But his son's invasion of Iraq and support for Israel are unpopular in the UAE. "We do not respect your son. We do not respect what he's doing all over the world," a female audience member told Mr Bush after his folksy keynote speech, in which he said how proud he was of his sons. Mr Bush appeared stunned as the audience of young business leaders whooped and whistled in approval.

"This son is not going to back away," Mr Bush said, his voice quivering.