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Last Updated: Friday, 7 October 2005, 18:09 GMT 19:09 UK
Bush God comments 'not literal'
President George W Bush

A Palestinian official who said the US president had claimed God told him to invade Iraq and Afghanistan says he did not take George Bush's words literally.

Nabil Shaath said he and other world leaders at a Jordan summit two years ago did not believe Mr Bush thought God had given him a personal message.

Mr Bush's spokesman said the original allegation, which will appear in a BBC documentary next week, was absurd.

Scott McClellan said the comments had never been made.

The comments were attributed to Mr Bush by Mr Shaath, a Palestinian negotiator, in the upcoming TV series Elusive Peace: Israel and the Arabs.

Mr Shaath said that in a 2003 meeting with Mr Bush, the US president said he was "driven with a mission from God".

"God would tell me, George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan. And I did, and then God would tell me, George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq... And I did.

"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."

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who attended the meeting in June 2003 too, also appears on the documentary series to recount how Mr Bush told him: "I have a moral and religious obligation. So I will get you a Palestinian state."

'Strong faith'

But in an interview for the BBC Arabic service on Friday, he said the president - who had just announced an end to hostilities in Iraq, was merely expressing his heartfelt commitment to peace in the Middle East.

"President Bush said that God guided him in what he should do, and this guidance led him to go to Afghanistan to rid it of terrorism after 9/11 and led him to Iraq to fight tyranny," he said.

"We understood that he was illustrating [in his comments] his strong faith and his belief that this is what God wanted."

The TV series charts recent attempts to bring peace to the Middle East, from former US President Bill Clinton's peace talks in 1999-2000 to Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip this year.

It seeks to uncover what happened behind closed doors by speaking to presidents and prime ministers, along with their generals and ministers.

The BBC Two series, Israel and the Arabs: Elusive Peace will be broadcast on Mondays from 10 October at 2100 BST.


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