10/07/2005

Guardian : George Bush: 'God told me to end the tyranny in Iraq'

George Bush has claimed he was on a mission from God when he launched the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, according to a senior Palestinian politician in an interview to be broadcast by the BBC later this month.

Mr Bush revealed the extent of his religious fervour when he met a Palestinian delegation during the Israeli-Palestinian summit at the Egpytian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, four months after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

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One of the delegates, Nabil Shaath, who was Palestinian foreign minister at the time, said: "President Bush said to all of us: 'I am driven with a mission from God'. God would tell me, 'George go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan'. And I did. And then God would tell me 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq'. And I did."

Mr Bush went on: "And now, again, I feel God's words coming to me, 'Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East'. And, by God, I'm gonna do it."

Mr Bush, who became a born-again Christian at 40, is one of the most overtly religious leaders to occupy the White House, a fact which brings him much support in middle America.

Soon after, the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz carried a Palestinian transcript of the meeting, containing a version of Mr Bush's remarks. But the Palestinian delegation was reluctant publicly to acknowledge its authenticity.

The BBC persuaded Mr Shaath to go on the record for the first time for a three-part series on Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy: Elusive Peace, which begins on Monday.

Religion also surfaced as an issue when Mr Bush and Tony Blair were reported to have prayed together in 2002 at his ranch at Crawford, Texas - the summit at which the invasion of Iraq was agreed in principle. Mr Blair has consistently refused to admit or deny the claim.

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian prime minister, who was also part of the delegation at Sharm el-Sheikh, told the BBC programme that Mr Bush had said: "I have a moral and religious obligation. I must get you a Palestinian state. And I will."

Mr Shaath's comments came as Mr Bush delivered a speech yesterday aimed at bolstering US support for the Iraq war

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | George Bush: 'God told me to end the tyranny in Iraq'

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