Mike catches president off guard

"I feel like telling Kofi to call Assad and make something happen."

By NATHAN GUTTMAN
July 18, 2006 01:13
2 minute read.
bush blair 298.88

bush blair 298.88. (photo credit: Associated Press)

US President George W. Bush was caught Monday expressing his frustration over the situation in the Middle East, unaware that his words were being picked up by the microphones. During a photo opportunity at the beginning of a lunch meeting at the G-8 summit in St. Petersburg, Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair were discussing the latest developments in the region and the diplomatic actions that need to be taken to restore peace. "See, the irony is," said Bush to Blair, who was standing next to him, "what they need to do is get Syria to get Hizbullah to stop doing this shit and it's over." Blair did not comment on Bush's choice of words and went on talking about the role of the UN in solving the problem. A White House spokesman refused to comment on Bush's use of the expletive and only noted that "the words of the president speak for themselves" and that though the language used in the private discussion was blunt, it did represent the president's views. The informal conversation between Bush and Blair, on the sidelines of the G-8 summit, reveals much of the anger the US leader feels due to the refusal of the international community, and specifically the UN, to take a stand regarding the role of Syria in the Lebanon conflict. "What about [UN Secretary General] Kofi Annan?" Bush asks Blair, while chewing on his lunch. "I don't like the sequence of it. His attitude is basically cease-fire and everything else happens." "You can't stop this unless you get this international presence agreed," Blair replies, and Bush tells him that he is dispatching Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the region. Later in the conversation, referring to the role Annan is playing in the crisis, Blair says to Bush: "What does he think? He thinks if Lebanon turns out fine, if he gets a solution in Israel and Palestine, Iraq goes in the right way, he's done it. That's what this whole thing's about. It's the same with Iran." Bush, who is also apparently displeased with the conduct of the UN on this issue, replies: "I feel like telling Kofi to get on the phone with [Syrian President Bashar] Assad and make something happen. We're not blaming Israel and we're not blaming the Lebanese government." At this point Blair, noticing that his private conversation with Bush was being picked up by the media, rushed over to the table and turned off the microphone. When asked later about the incident, Blair did not refer directly to Bush's remarks, but stressed the message that the international community must be united against Hizbullah.


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