Bush snubs Rudd over G20 slur

November 15th, 2008 - 3:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Nov 15 (DPA) Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd received a frosty welcome from US President George W. Bush when he arrived for the White House dinner that opened the Group of 20 (G20) summit in Washington, news reports said Saturday.While other leaders of the world’s top 20 developed and emerging economies received smiles and backslaps, Rudd earned a perfunctory handshake and a stony glare, Australia’s AAP news agency reported.

Rudd raised Bush’s ire by telling dinner guests after taking a call from Bush on Oct 20 that the leader of the free world had asked him, “What’s the G20?”

A dinner guest at the prime minister’s Sydney residence leaked the slur to the press. It was published locally and then taken up by US newspapers.

The cursory greeting at the White House Friday night was their first meeting since a gaffe that was likely to sour bilateral relations and worry other world leaders who have supposedly private conversations with the Australian prime minister.

That Bush declared his ignorance of the composition of the G20 - which includes the Group of Eight industrialized nations and some of the largest emerging economies, including China, India, Brazil and South Africa - has been denied by both the White House and Rudd’s office. But there has been no apology from Rudd for the slur.

In Parliament last week, Rudd was asked repeatedly to categorically deny that he or his staff had deliberately tried to embarrass Bush by claiming he had asked the provenance of the G20.

His repeated refusals to do so were characterized by opposition Liberal Party leader Malcolm Turnbull as a “serial and eloquent plea of guilty” to the charge that the prime minister had gratuitously insulted Bush.

Rudd has not blamed the media for misreporting. Pressed in parliament to deny that he or a staffer had made up a calumny that was passed first to The Australian newspaper, Rudd stayed mum.

Turnbull, a former high-priced barrister, skewered Rudd by saying he had been unmasked in an attempt to present himself as clever and the president as ignorant.

The purported contents of the phone call, Turnbull said, contained “an account so self-serving that it presented him as a diplomatic encyclopaedia, a font of all knowledge, and the president of the US, the chief executive of our greatest ally, as a fool”.

He added: “The prime minister’s fingers are all over this. Every letter, every paragraph, is dripping with his DNA.”

Rudd was likely to face further interrogation over the scandal when he returns to Canberra with the opposition likely to argue that Bush’s cold greeting confirmed that deep offence had been taken and an apology was required.

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