Mon, Jun 07, 2004 - Page 6 News List

In France, Bush heaps unctuous praise on Ronnie

REUTERS , PARIS

Former US president Ronald Reagan left behind a nation restored and a world he helped save, a grieving US President George W. Bush said early yesterday after he was awakened and told the former president had died.

"A great American life has come to an end," Bush said in Paris. He said he had spoken to Reagan's widow, Nancy, "and I offered her and the Reagan family our prayers and condolences."

Bush spoke to reporters after midnight in an appearance arranged quickly after the president learned of the death of Reagan in California.

"He leaves behind a nation he restored, and a world he helped save," Bush said.

Bush had just gone to bed at the US ambassador's residence after an Elysee Palace dinner with French President Jacques Chirac.

White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card woke up the president at 10:09pm. to tell him Reagan had died. Card had been told by Reagan's chief of staff, Fred Ryan.

Bush considered Reagan a hero and in many ways has tried to emulate his firm conviction that the US must advance peace through strength.

In his remarks, Bush spoke about Reagan's era, when Americans held self-doubt after the Vietnam War defeat and the national malaise during the presidency of Jimmy Carter, who Reagan defeated in the 1980 election.

"During the years of President Reagan, America laid to rest an era of division and self doubt. And because of his leadership, the world laid to rest an era of fear and tyranny," said Bush, looking upset.

"Now, in laying our leader to rest, we say thank you," Bush said.

Bush was in France to attend ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of World War II's D-Day landings.

After attending the ceremonies on the Normandy beaches, Bush planned to fly home later yesterday to play host to a Group of Eight summit at Sea Island, Georgia.

The White House said Bush would attend a memorial service for Reagan but did not say when that might be. Officials left open the possibility of a change in Bush's schedule later in the week.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan described Bush as an heir to Reagan.

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