Unplugged Bush, Blair speak frankly on Mideast, G8
40 minutes ago
A microphone picked up an unaware President Bush saying on Monday Syria should press Hizbollah to "stop doing this ****" and that his secretary of state may go to the Middle East soon.
Bush was talking privately to British Prime Minister Tony Blair during a lunch at the Group of Eight summit in St Petersburg about an upsurge of violence in the Middle East.
Neither immediately realized a microphone was transmitting their candid thoughts on that and other issues.
"I think Condi (Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice) is going to go (to the Middle East) pretty soon," Bush said.
Blair replied: "Right, that's all that matters, it will take some time to get that together." Rice said on Sunday she was thinking of going to the region if it would help.
However, Rice headed back to the United States after the G8 summit closed on Monday, a State Department spokeswoman said.
Blair added: "See, if she (Rice) goes out she's got to succeed as it were, where as I can just go out and talk."
Bush replied: "See, the irony is what they need to do is get Syria to get Hizbollah to stop doing this **** and it's over."
While his language was salty, the message from Bush was what it had been throughout the summit -- that Syria is supporting Hizbollah guerrillas in southern Lebanon and should force them to stop shelling Israel and return abducted Israeli soldiers.
U.S. officials believe that if Hizbollah did so, Israel's military strikes on Lebanon might stop.
Bush also seemed to complain about U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan wanting an immediate ceasefire to stop the violence between Israel and Hizbollah.
"I don't like the sequence of it," Bush said. "His attitude is basically ceasefire and everything else happens."
Blair said: "I think the thing that is really difficult is you can't stop this unless you get this international presence agreed."
A G8 statement on Sunday suggested the U.N. Security Council should consider an international security and monitoring presence on the Lebanon-Israel border, an idea Blair is pushing.
Later, Bush said he felt like telling Annan to telephone Syrian President Bashar al-Assad "and make something happen."
"We're not blaming Israel and we're not blaming the Lebanese government," he said.
The two leaders also appeared to chat about the stalled Doha Round of world trade talks.
"I just want some movement," Bush said, to which Blair replied: "It may be that it's impossible." Later, plans were announced for ministers from six key trade powers to meet in Geneva from Monday to try to unblock the talks.
Ultimately Blair noticed the microphone and hastily switched it off, but not before the recording had reached news media.
In the chummy conversation between long-time allies, Bush teased the British leader about a sweater Blair had apparently given him.
"Thanks for the sweater, it was awfully thoughtful of you. I know you picked it out yourself," Bush said.
"Oh, absolutely," said Blair.
Bush also said that when he next spoke to G8 leaders, he would keep it brief. "I'm not going to talk too long like the rest of them. Some of these guys talk too long. Gotta go home. Got something to do tonight," he said.