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Ex-US president George Bush Sr dies at 94

HOUSTON: George H W Bush, the 41st president of the US, who led America during the dramatic collapse of the Soviet Union and engineered the defeat of an audacious Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, died here on Friday. He was 94.

His death, which was announced by his office, came less than eight months after that of his wife of 73 years, Barbara Bush.

“Jeb, Neil, Marvin, Doro, and I are saddened to announce that after 94 remarkable years, our dear Dad has died,” George Bush Jr, who went on to serve as the 43rd US president, said in a statement.

He was “a man of the highest character and the best dad a son or daughter could ask for. The entire Bush family is deeply grateful for 41’s life and love, for the compassion of those who have cared and prayed for Dad, and for the condolences of our friends and fellow citizens,” Bush Jr added.

Funeral arrangements will be announced at a later time, according to the statement released by Bush’s spokesman Jim McGrath.

President Donald Trump on Saturday praised Bush’s “unflappable leadership” during the waning days of the Cold War.

“Melania and I join with a grieving nation to mourn the loss of former president George H W Bush,” Trump said in a statement from Buenos Aires, where he was attending the G20 summit.

“Through his essential authenticity, disarming wit and unwavering commitment to faith, family, and country, President Bush inspired generations of his fellow Americans to public service – to be, in his words, ‘a thousand points of light’ illuminating the greatness, hope, and opportunity of America to the world,” Trump said.

Bush was suffering from Parkinson’s disease that forced him to use a wheelchair in recent years, and he had been in and out of hospitals in recent months as his health declined. There were fears that after his wife, Barbara, died in April, Bush might die, too. He was admitted to a hospital with a blood infection on April 23, one day after the funeral for the former first lady, and remained there for 13 days.

He was hospitalised again in May for low blood pressure and fatigue a week after arriving in Maine to spend the summer. He was released a few days later and celebrated his birthday on June 12 – making history by becoming the first former president to reach the age of 94.

The decorated war pilot and former CIA chief was elected president on November 8, 1988. He was sworn in on January 20, 1989, and served until January 20, 1993.

During his term in office, a revolution of human liberty swept the globe, emancipating tens of millions of people and unleashing a series of transformative events: collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War; the Berlin Wall “fell”, and Germany united within NATO following 45 years of postwar division.

From Eastern Europe to the Baltic States to Latin America to the former Soviet republics, many liberal democracies supplanted totalitarian regimes. During this “historic period of cooperation” as he called it, president Bush worked with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and other key global figures to end the Cold War peacefully and usher in a new geopolitical era marked by political self-determination, the spread of market capitalism, and the opening of closed economies.

In August of 1990, after Iraqi troops under dictator Saddam Hussein invaded neighbouring Kuwait, president Bush forged an unprecedented coalition of 32 countries to restore Kuwaiti sovereignty and uphold international law. He subsequently convened the Madrid Peace Conference in the Fall of 1991, bringing Israel and her Arab neighbours together in face-to-face discussions for the first time in history.

President Bush also drastically reduced the threat of nuclear attack by signing two Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties in 1991 and 1993, and negotiated the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1992 – which president Bill Clinton later signed into law.

Former Soviet leader Gorbachev praised Bush for his role in ending the Cold War. “A lot of my memories are linked with this man. We had the chance to work together during the time of enormous changes…He was a true partner,” he said.

Clinton, who succeeded Bush as the US president, said, “I will be forever grateful for the friendship we formed.” “Hillary and I mourn the passing of president George H W Bush, and give thanks for his great long life of service, love, and friendship,” Clinton said.

Former US president Barack Obama, who awarded Bush the highest US civilian honour – the Presidential Medal of Freedom – in 2011, said America has lost a patriot and humble servant in George Herbert Walker Bush.

Bush Sr was born on June 12, 1924 in Milton, Massachusetts in a wealthy New England political dynasty. He married Barbara Pierce in January 1945, shortly before the War War II ended, and the couple went on to have six children, including one, Robin, who died as a child.

He became the youngest naval pilot at age 18 following Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor and flew combat missions from the aircraft carrier USS San Jacinto. Bush flew 58 combat missions and won the Distinguished Flying Cross.

President Bush, or ‘41’ as he was informally known after George W was elected president, considered Houston, Texas his home – and Walker’s Point, the family home where he spent a part of every summer except 1944 (when he was serving in World War II), as his “anchor to windward.”

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