US PRESIDENT George W Bush conferred the country’s highest civilian honour on former British prime minister Tony Blair, former Australian prime minister John Howard and Colombian leader Alvaro Uribe on Tuesday, describing them as “true friends of the US.”
The three rightwingers were given the Presidential Medal of Freedom at a ceremony at the White House.
Mr Bush said that each of the men had “met historic challenges with great tenacity, providing a lasting example of statesmanship at home and abroad.”
The outgoing US president described Mr Blair as a “man of faith, ideal and integrity” who would “stand tall in history.”
Mr Bush said that his “staunch friend” had carried the “might and morality of the British people and applied it to the war on terror.”
Mr Blair and Mr Howard were Mr Bush’s closest allies in the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq. The outgoing president paid lengthy tribute to each of them and their “firm adherence to the principles of freedom and democratic values.”
“They’re the sort of guys who look you in the eye and tell you the truth and keep their word,” he said.
President Harry Truman established the Medal of Freedom in 1945 to reward service during World War II.
It recognises “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States or to world peace or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavours.”