Major leads tributes to George Bush senior

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Sir John Major has led tributes in Britain to former US president George Bush senior, who has died at the age of 94.

The former prime minister, who worked with Mr Bush in the coalition to expel Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein from Kuwait in the 1991 Gulf War, said it was a “privilege” to have known him.

“Sometimes people think politics is tawdry. You could have never have said that about the way George Bush behaved in politics. He had opponents but never enemies,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

“He certainly was a man who made sure politics was a respectable profession and he understood its obligations to everyone, not just the powerful, not just the rich, not just the mighty, but to the people who were absolutely at the bottom of the heap as well.”

“At each stage of his remarkable career, the president worked side by side with his friends, colleagues and counterparts in the United Kingdom,” she said.

“Today Britain remembers a great statesman and a true friend of our country.”

Former prime minister Tony Blair said: “President Bush was an extraordinary and exemplary public servant, a man dedicated to his country, the values it stands for at its best and to making the world better, more stable and more peaceful.”

Sir John paid tribute to the way Mr Bush had recognised the need to assemble an international coalition to eject Saddam following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

“The war would never have been so successful without the Arab members of the coalition. I cannot think of any president more likely to have drawn together such a coalition,” he said.

“To make sure it was cemented he also went to the United Nations to get a United Nations resolution.

“That meant that it wasn’t a Western imperialist, as people might have said, attacking Iraq after their invasion of Kuwait. It was an attack by people representing every part of the world, and, in particular, Middle Eastern members of the coalition

“That was a remarkable piece of diplomacy I think very few presidents would have been able to achieve.”

Sir John said their alliance had led to a lifelong friendship which continued for years after they had both left office.

“The first phone call I had as prime minister was from George Bush,” he said.

“The first phone call I had seven years later when I was defeated was from George who said ‘Come over to Maine, the blue fish are biting, come and spend a few days with us’. So it did become a personal friendship.”

Former prime minister David Cameron tweeted: “So sad to hear that George HW Bush has passed away. He was a very good man, a great President & a warm hearted, generous American patriot who was a strong ally & friend of the UK.
“Receiving “Bush 41″ & his wonderful wife Barbara at No10 was a huge honour that I will never forget.”

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “President Bush was a true ally of the UK, from his service with the US Navy during World War II, to his commitment to the transatlantic alliance while in high office during a time of dramatic change in the world.

“He will be remembered for his dedication to public service and his pledge to use American strength as a force for good. I send my sincerest condolences to his family, and to the American people.”

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