Page last updated at 08:29 GMT, Friday, 4 April 2008 09:29 UK

Rudd Bush salute irks Australians

Kevin Rudd (L) and George W Bush, 28/03
Mr Rudd met Mr Bush for the first time as prime minister earlier this week

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has been criticised by opponents after greeting US President George W Bush with a playful military-style salute.

Footage of Mr Rudd meeting Mr Bush at a Nato gathering in Romania has been played repeatedly in Australia.

One broadcaster suggested Mr Rudd was acting like Mr Bush's "deputy sheriff" while political opponents described the gesture as "unbecoming".

Mr Rudd laughed off the criticism, saying the salute was a joke.

"I was just saying 'hi' to the president of the United States," Mr Rudd told reporters.

But his political foes were less amused, with the Liberal Party's Brendan Nelson leading the criticism.

"Mr Rudd appears to conduct himself in one manner when he thinks the television is upon him and another when it is not," the opposition leader said.

Greens' leader Bob Brown also joined in, saying: "We are not the 51st state of the USA and Mr Rudd's salute carried a subservient connotation many Australians won't like."

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