Pictured: The moment a man hurled his shoes at George Bush during trip to Iraq

Posted on 3:27 AM by Sameer Shah

George Bush was forced to duck for cover yesterday as a furious Iraqi journalist hurled his shoes directly at the U.S. president's head.

Mr Bush was sharing a news conference platform with Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Maliki during a farewell visit to Baghdad when the outburst came.

Muntadar al-Zeidi, a correspondent for Cairo-based Al-Baghdadiya TV, slipped off his shoes and flung them forcefully at Mr Bush, shouting: 'This is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, dog! This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq.'

The shoes bounced off a wall behind the president while Iraqi security officers and US secret service agents immediately leapt on al-Zeidi and dragged him away.

But when asked about the incident shortly afterwards, the president made light of it, joking that he thought the shoes were about size ten.

'It doesn't bother me,' he added. 'It's like going to a political rally and have people yell at you. It's a way for people to draw attention.'

Bush smiled uncomfortably and Maliki looked strained in the moments following the attack.

In Iraqi culture, throwing shoes at someone is a sign of contempt.

Other Iraqi journalists apologised on behalf of their colleague who has now been taken into custody.

When Mr Bush met with reporters later aboard Air Force One, he had a joke prepared: 'I didn't know what the guy said but I saw his "sole".' Later, he said: 'I'm going to be thinking of shoe jokes for a long time. I haven't heard any good ones yet.'

At the news conference Mr Bush declared: 'The war is not over. There is still more work to be done.'

Moving from one battle zone to another, today Mr Bush flew to Afghanistan where he told reporters and President Hamid Karzai that the U.S. would stand by the war-torn country despite a transition of power at the White House.

'I told the president you can count on the United States. Just like you've been able to count on this administration, you will be able to count on the next administration as well,' Mr Bush told a news conference.

Yesterday he applauded security gains in Iraq and, referring to a security pact paving the way for US troops to withdraw, he said that just two years ago 'such an agreement seemed impossible.'

'There is hope in the eyes of Iraq's young,' Mr Bush said. 'This is the future of what we've been fighting for.'

Al-Maliki said: 'Today, Iraq is moving forward in every field.'

For the first time Bush landed in Air Force One at Baghdad International Airport in broad daylight and during the visit he also ventured outside the security of the Green Zone to visit al-Maliki in his palace.

The unannounced visit came just 37 days before Bush gives way to President-elect Barack Obama, who has vowed to end the Iraq war.

'The work hasn't been easy but it has been necessary for American security, Iraqi hope and world peace,' Bush said.

'I'm just so grateful I had the chance to come back to Iraq before my presidency ends.'

His visit followed the recent signing of a U.S.-Iraq security agreement that requires American forces to withdraw by the end of 2011.

Almost 150,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq fighting a conflict that is intensely unpopular in the United States and across the globe.

More than 4,200 American servicemen and women have died and the war has cost U.S. taxpayers $576 billion (£385 billion) since it began five years and nine months ago.

After landing in Baghdad, Bush began a rapid-fire series of meetings with top Iraqi leaders and thanked U.S. troops.

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