Australian Prime Minister John Howard on Monday described US President George W Bush as "an intelligent and likeable man" and said their friendship was eternal.
"You form a view of somebody and their character and I tend to stick with them," Howard told local television on the eve of Bush's arrival for an Asia-Pacific summit meeting in Sydney.
"It may not always enjoy total support, but I do it in a way that doesn't damage the interests of my country," he said of his personal ties with Bush, who this week again described Howard as "a man of steel" for sending troops to Iraq and keeping them there despite widespread opposition among the electorate.
Asked to comment on the perception that the mission in Iraq had failed and Bush had failed to address global warming, Howard said: "He has his critics. I like him. I find him an intelligent and likeable man to deal with on a personal basis."
Bush is to attend his seventh Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders' meeting and was expecting to hold private talks with the heads of government of Australia, Japan, South Korea, Russia and possibly Indonesia.
He will also hold a first-ever meeting with Labor Party leader Kevin Rudd, who is well ahead of Howard in opinion polls and is poised to win a general election expected in November.
Rudd, who has pledged to withdraw Australia's 1,500 troops from Iraq if he wins office, said in advance of meeting Bush that he would not be persuaded to keep them on.
"We have been examining the situation on the ground over a long period of time," Rudd said. "Mr Bush and Mr Howard have their view on Iraq, and we have a different view."
Bush, interviewed in Washington last week, said of his upcoming meeting with Rudd: "He doesn't know me and I don't know him, so I look forward to sharing my views and would ask, if he were to win [the upcoming election], that he would consider conditions on the ground before making any decisions."
Bush is to be in Sydney longer than most of the other leaders in the 21-member APEC but will leave Saturday, a day earlier than the others.
Last Mod: 03 Eylül 2007, 12:41