Iraqi Journalist Throws Size 10 Shoes At President Bush

During a farewell visit to Baghdad on Sunday, President George W. Bush defended a war that has taken far more time, money and lives than anticipated, saying the conflict “has not been easy” but was necessary for US security, Iraqi stability and “world peace”.

But in a sign of lingering anger against the US military presence, an Iraqi journalist shouted: “This is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, dog,” and hurled his shoes at the US president during a news conference with prime minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Throwing shoes at somebody is a supreme insult in the Middle East. One of the shoes sailed over the president’s head and slammed into the wall behind him and he had to duck to miss the other one. Mr Maliki tried to block the second shoe with his arm.

“It’s like going to a political rally and have people yell at you,” said Mr Bush. “I don’t know what the guy’s cause was. I didn’t feel the least bit threatened by it.”

Mr Bush had landed in Iraq under a veil of secrecy for his fourth and presumably final visit as president.

He was scheduled to meet US troops and Iraqi leaders about a security agreement that calls for the withdrawal of US forces by 2011.

After meeting with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani at Salam Palace, Mr Bush hailed the security agreement as “a reminder of our friendship and as a way forward to help the Iraqi people realise the blessings of a free society”.

“The work hasn’t been easy, but it has been necessary for American security, Iraqi hope, and world peace,” Mr Bush said, adding: “I am just so grateful that I had a chance to come back to Iraq before my presidency ended.”

Mr Bush’s praise for the security agreement is particularly remarkable given that the US administration spent years dismissing proposals for withdrawal timelines as dangerous admissions of defeat. The agreement came after months of hard bargaining by Iraqi leaders, who insisted on a firm date for the removal of US troops.

The US president’s visit comes against a backdrop of declining violence across Iraq, which the Bush Administration attributes to a buildup of thousands of reinforcements last year.

But attacks have continued and many areas in Iraq remain unstable, particularly in the north. Last week, at least 57 Iraqis were killed in a suicide attack at a popular restaurant outside of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

Mr Bush left Iraq and arrived in Afghanistan late on Sunday, a pool report from Air Force One said. The White House said Bush plans to meet with US troops and Afghan President Hamid Karzai and address US troops.

Source: Financial Times

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