Tue, Nov 23, 2004 - Page 7 News List

`Hands-on' Bush weighs into scuffle at APEC meet

AFP , SANTIAGO

During his first visit to Chile, US President George W. Bush rescued a bodyguard scuffling with local security and -- with a slip of the tongue -- moved Iraq's newly announced elections from January to June.

Bush enjoyed a some diplomatic victories during this three-day stay here, from a deal to shave billions of dollars from Iraq's debt to rallying key US partners behind his efforts to drag North Korea back to nuclear crisis talks. And if it was not all smooth sailing, he was hardly the only one making waves.

First, a White House briefing book distributed to reporters said Bush would meet with "President Megawati Soekarnoputri" of Indonesia on Saturday, even though she handed power to Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Oct. 20.

Then, Bush took part in an unusual incident after a platoon of Chilean security blocked his lead Secret Service protector from following him into a dinner, leading to an unusual scuffle caught by television cameras.

The president, who had been posing for photographs with wife Laura Bush,noticed the shoving match, doubled back, reached into the scrum, and pulled the agent out, then walked away shaking his head and adjusting his shirt cuffs.

"The president is someone who tends to delegate, but every now and then he's a hands-on kind of guy," White House press secretary Scott McClellan joked a day later.

Another security squabble, this one over US plans to run the 400 guests at a banquet in Bush's honor through a metal detector, led Chile to scrap the feast and replace it with a 20-person working dinner, a Chilean official said.

"I won't let them do that to my guests," Chilean President Ricardo Lagoswas quoted as saying by a foreign ministry official. US officials did not dispute the thrust of that account.

Some of the miscues were minor head-scratchers stemming from Bush's famed tendency to mangle the English language.

In a joint public appearance with Lagos, Bush meant to take note of plans for Jan. 30 elections in Iraq, but said instead: "I noticed today that the elections are on schedule for June the 30th."

And Bush said he and Lagos were determined "to bring drug trafficking to bear," presumably a mix-up with his frequently stated eagerness to crush that global scourge.

Referring to the relative innocence of the days before the Sept. 11, 2001 strikes, Bush told executives on Saturday: "We thought we were protected forever from trade policy or terrorist attacks because oceans protected us."

In that same speech, Bush meant to praise the APEC meeting here, but instead declared: "Our nation is a Pacific country, as well. And that's why the OPEC conferences are so important."

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