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Countries that will miss George Bush

By Kim Ghattas
BBC News, Washington

George W Bush  is greeted by a crowd of Israeli children waving American and Israeli flags as he arrives at the Israeli President's Residence in Jerusalem, 9 January, 2008
America's ties to Israel strengthened under President Bush

A lot has been written about George W Bush's unpopularity around the globe - but what about those places where the outgoing president was popular?

As he leaves office with a record high domestic disapproval rate - 73%, according to an October ABC News/Washington Post poll - President George W Bush can perhaps take some comfort from the fact that this feeling is not uniformly shared abroad.

While the shoe-throwing incident in Iraq may come to symbolise the world's opinion of a president who is often referred to as the worst in America's history, some corners of the world will miss the 43rd president of the United States.

He has approval ratings of around 80% in Africa, according to some polls, and in Kosovo a main street was named after him to thank him for supporting Kosovo's independence.

"It is generally accepted in the US that Bush has generated hatred for America around the world," says Peter Berkowitz, a fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution.

"But the picture is not black and white," he added.

Israeli ties

In the last days of his administration, Mr Bush again demonstrated his unwavering support for Israel as it pounded Gaza.

George Bush's policy in Iraq has meant I can no longer go for a walk after 10 o'clock at night
Hazim, Basra

My wife is American and if George Bush hadn't been president she would probably not have agreed to live with me in Germany. Thanks George!
Gerd Hildebrandt, Cologne

Analysts in the US observed that Israel may have deliberately timed the military offensive so that it took place before Mr Bush's departure.

Israel knew it could count on the current president to support its actions, but felt less certain about how an Obama administration would react.

US ties with Israel have always been strong, but some believe the relationship was even stronger under Mr Bush and that - depending on how Mr Obama handles the Middle East - the outgoing president may be appreciated even more in Israel once he has left the White House.

"Israel is probably the only place on earth where Bush can still get a standing ovation," says Mr Berkowitz, who was in Israel at the time of Mr Bush's visit in May for the 60th anniversary of Israel's creation, when he got several standing ovations.

"Israel sensed correctly that he acutely understood the challenges they faced. But my view is also that he understood the suffering and challenges of the Palestinians. He was after all the first American president who called for the creation of a Palestinian state."

It is unlikely, however, that many Palestinians will remember Mr Bush for that particular call - especially now that their final image of the Bush administration will be shaped by the latest Israeli attacks in Gaza.

Bitter disappointment

Just north of Israel and the Palestinian territories, Lebanon is one country where there is still some lingering appreciation for Mr Bush in some circles, albeit laced with disappointment.

George W Bush poses with four Ghanaian dancers in Accra, Ghana, 20 February 2008
Mr Bush was greeted by happy crowds on his 2008 trip to Africa

The administration's support for Lebanon's pro-Western factions in the turmoil following the 2005 assassination of the former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was received with gratitude and relief.

What was known in Washington as the "Cedar Revolution" - and to Lebanese as the "Independence Intifada" - was held up by Mr Bush as a successful result of his "freedom agenda".

Liberal, anti-Syrian and pro-Western politicians swept to victory in the legislative elections that followed and formed a government for the first time in three decades.

But bitter disappointment came in the summer of 2006, when Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah militants engaged in a fierce war. Civilians were dying in large numbers, but for days Washington withheld from calling for a ceasefire.

Happy crowds

Africa as a continent stands out as the main region in the world where Bush is most likely to be missed and where widespread support for the 62-year-old Texan mystified his critics.

In Darfur, many people reportedly name their newborn children George Bush.

When he visited the continent in February, he was greeted everywhere by excited, happy crowds.

Pew foundation polls suggested that he had approval ratings of up to 80%, even in countries with a dominantly Muslim population.

In Darfur, many people reportedly name their newborn children George Bush.

"While Bush's critics have given him little credit for his African initiatives, they will be among his most enduring legacies in a region of the world neglected by policymakers from both parties for too long," wrote Andrew Natsios, a fellow at the Hudson Institute, in an article in the Boston Globe last year.

It helps that America is not fighting any wars in Africa, as it is in the Middle East or Central Asia.

So in Africa, Bush would be remembered for "playing a central role as peacemaker in ending a 20-year civil war between the Arab north and African south," wrote Mr Natsios.

We know for sure that you, Mr President, and your administration have been good friends of our country
Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete

"It was the Bush administration that first raised the alarm about the atrocities in Darfur, organised a massive humanitarian relief effort to save people in the displaced camps, and rallied an international coalition to send peacekeeping troops to restore order through the United Nations and the African Union," he added.

When Mr Bush arrived in Tanzania in February, President Jakaya Kikwete poured praise on him.

"Different people may have different views about you and your administration and your legacy," he said.

"But we in Tanzania, if we are to speak for ourselves and for Africa, we know for sure that you, Mr President, and your administration have been good friends of our country and have been good friends of Africa."

Missed by enemies

What has really boosted Mr Bush's popularity there has been his decision to increase aid to Africa and the economic and health programmes he supported in the continent.

Overall, foreign aid doubled during the Bush administration, and in Africa it quadrupled from $1.3bn in 2001 to $5bn in 2008.

Additional billions of dollars were allocated to support his programmes to fight malaria and HIV/Aids and to reward good governance, programmes which have been viewed as a great success.

Kori Schake, a member of the National Security Council during Mr Bush's first term, says a number of other countries around the world may miss President Bush, from those that were hoping to sign free trade agreements with Washington, like Colombia, to rising powers like India which signed a controversial nuclear co-operation deal with Washington outside the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Former Soviet republics like Ukraine and Georgia, which were hoping to join Nato or at least make good progress along that path, may also lament the end of the Bush administration.

But it may well be that whether Mr Bush is missed or not will depend on what Barack Obama does as president.

Finally, in their own way, leaders like Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, Cuba's former president Fidel Castro and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may come to miss the man they loved to hate when they have to start dealing with his successor, the man that the world loves to love.

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