World leaders according to Bush

9th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

In former US president George W. Bush's memoirs, North Korea's Kim Jong-Il is a food-hurling tantrum thrower, Jacques Chirac of France likes to lecture, former British prime minister Tony Blair is a stalwart friend, and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is "cold-blooded."

Bush's "Decision Points," out Tuesday, packs his eight years in the White House into about 500 pages full of anecdotes and assessments of world leaders, some kind, others brutal, and a few perhaps designed to settle old scores.

Here are some of the former president's behind-the-scenes reports.

= China's President Hu Jintao "had an unexcitable demeanor and a keen analytical mind" and told Bush that what kept him up at night was the need to create 25 million new jobs each year to keep up with population growth.

"It was a signal that he was a practical leader focused inward, not an ideologue likely to stir up trouble abroad."

= Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, unsurprisingly, was "my closest partner and best friend on the world stage," writes Bush, who underlines: "Some of our allies wavered. Tony Blair never did."

Upon accepting the post of special envoy for the Middle East peace diplomatic "Quartet," Blair quips to Bush: "If I win the Nobel Peace Prize, you will know I have failed" -- a joke the former US president sets up a few pages earlier by noting the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat won in 1994.

The Bushes and Blairs bonded at their first meeting in February 2001 by watching the madcap comedy "Meet The Parents," says the former president, who stresses "there was no stuffiness about Tony and Cherie," his wife.

During a summer 2001 meeting in Britain, Cherie Blair slams Bush's support for the death penalty in a heated debate that ends when Euan Blair, then 17, declares: "Give the man a break, Mother."

= Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin "was sometimes cocky, sometimes charming, always tough," says Bush, who never explicitly repudiates his June 2001 judgment that he "got a sense of his (Putin's) soul" and found him "straightforward and trustworthy."

Bush calls Russia's August 2008 war with Georgia the "low point" in their relationship, and relates an exchange in which Putin declares himself "hot-blooded" -- to which Bush replies: "No, Vladimir, you're cold-blooded."

Bush also notes Putin's opposition to the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, saying: "It seemed to me that part of the reason was Putin didn't want to jeopardize Russia's lucrative oil contracts."

= Dealing with North Korea's leader Kim Jong-Il "reminded me of raising children," writes Bush, who writes that his twin daughters Jenna and Barbara used to throw food when they were little and wanted attention.

The former president says he told his national security team: "The United States is through picking up his (Kim's) food."

= French President Nicolas Sarkozy is described as a "dynamic" leader "who had run on a pro-American platform."

= But Sarkozy's predecessor Jacques Chirac is described as prone to giving other world leaders lectures on morality and policy -- though Bush emphasizes how Washington and Paris cooperated to curb Syrian influence in Lebanon.

"Jacques Chirac and I didn't agree on much," said Bush, who cites Chirac calling Arafat "a man of courage" and telling other Group of Eight leaders that Putin was doing a fine job running Russia and needed no advice from the West.

When Chirac warns against tying aid to Africa to anti-corruption efforts, Bush says the French president "felt guilty about what nations like France had done in the colonial era" and tells Chirac: "America did not colonize African nations."

= Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi tells Bush that, a day after the September 11, 2001 terrorist strikes, he had "cried like a little boy and could not stop."

= But few leaders come in for as much of a drubbing as former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who in Bush's account promises ahead of the invasion of Iraq "I will be with you" if military forces is needed, then runs for reelection loudly attacking the prospect of war.

Bush writes that he felt his trust "violated," and notes acidly that Schroeder became chairman of a company owned by Gazprom, Russia's state-owned energy giant, upon stepping down.

© 2010 AFP

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