Mon, May 24, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Bush falls off bike, Iraq strategy speech still on

REUTERS , CRAWFORD, TEXAS

US President George W. Bush suffered minor cuts after falling off a mountain bike while cycling on his Texas ranch on Saturday, the White House said.

The 57-year-old Republican president had cycled 25km of a 27km afternoon bike course when he toppled over while riding downhill on what the White House described as soil loosened by recent rainfall.

"He had minor abrasions and scratches on his chin, upper lip, his nose, right hand and both knees," White House spokesman Trent Duffy told reporters.

Bush's physician, Dr. Richard Tubb, was with the president at the time. Tubb attended to his injuries and later reported Bush to be "fine," Duffy said.

When Bush stepped off the Marine One helicopter in Austin later on Saturday an abrasion above his right cheekbone and another prominent scrape on his chin could be clearly seen. He had a Band-Aid on the palm of his right hand.

The president, smiling and looking relaxed, paused for photographers as he got off the helicopter before heading to a local restaurant to celebrate his daughter Jenna's graduation.

The facial scratches and abrasions come two days before Bush is scheduled to make a major prime-time televised speech today to lay out his strategy for Iraq, as the troubled Middle Eastern nation approaches a US-imposed June 30 deadline for handover of sovereignty.

A White House spokeswoman said the accident would not affect the president's speech, which the administration has billed as an address to a "global audience."

"There is no change," she said.

The president, who has publicly complained about having to cut back on running because of a sore right knee, took up mountain-biking as an exercise alternative, aides have said. Bush had a knee examination last December that showed wear and tear to the joint.

Bush's rival in this year's presidential election, Democratic candidate John Kerry, who fell off a bicycle and grazed his hand earlier this month, wished the president well after learning of the spill.

"I hope he's OK," said the 60-year-old senator, who took a bike ride in Boston on Saturday but managed to stay upright.

Bush was the subject of a presidential safety scare in 2002, when he fainted after choking on a pretzel while watching a football game on television.

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