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America mourns George H.W. Bush, dead at 94

AFP  |  College Station (United States) 

Flags flew at half-staff across the on Saturday as Americans prepared for a week of solemn tributes to George Bush, in his home state of and in the US Capitol, a day after the former died aged 94.

Tributes poured in from world leaders in memory of the 41st US president, who guided through the end of the Cold War and launched the international campaign to drive Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein's forces from

Many of those same leaders are expected to attend Bush's state funeral next week, alongside and his wife

Trump was notably absent from the funerals of the statesman's late wife Barbara, and of veteran fellow Republican

Although the two Republican presidents were in many ways polar opposites -- the soft-spoken, patrician Bush reportedly once dismissed the blustering New Yorker as a "blowhard" and even voted for his rival -- Trump paid the late leader a gracious tribute, saying he had "inspired generations of his fellow Americans to public service."

"His accomplishments were great from beginning to end," Trump tweeted.

Declaring a of mourning for December 5 -- when the federal and will close in Bush's honor -- Trump also signalled his respect by calling off a press conference planned at the summit in

The days-long national farewell to Bush will begin Monday with a commemoration in Houston, where the Bushes lived for years and where he died on Friday surrounded by friends and family.

From there, Bush's casket will travel to on board Trump's presidential aircraft -- in what the US leader called "a special tribute that he deserves very much."

The former will lie in state in the US Capitol between Monday and Wednesday ahead of a state funeral at the towering National Cathedral, expected to draw dozens of dignitaries from around the world.

Bush's remains will travel back to late Wednesday, where he will lie in repose at St Martin's Episcopal Church in with a funeral service the next day preceding his internment at the Presidential Library in

He will make his final journey aboard a funeral train.

At the presidential library on Saturday, people came to sign the memorial book in Bush's honour, or lay flowers at the feet of his statue.

"We wanted to come here and at least respect senior because he was a great president, and a great human being," said Bhoumin Mehta, a well-wisher from Sugar Land, southwest of

Bush was a decorated World War II pilot, and onetime CIA who saw his son George follow in his footsteps to the Oval Office -- making them only the second father-son duo in American presidential history, after John and

From former Soviet leader to current heads of state, leaders praised Bush both for his strength and his moderation, as well as the commitment to internationalism typified by his assembling of a global coalition to oust Iraqi invaders from in 1991.

The oldest surviving former US president said "was marked by grace, civility and social conscience."

Britain took the rare step of lowering flags in buildings, while Germany's President praised Bush's "unwavering support" for the country's reunification."

Gorbachev called him "a true partner" in winding down the Cold War.

French President mourned the loss of a leader who "strongly supported the alliance with Europe" -- drawing an unspoken contrast to Trump's frequent criticisms of the Old Continent.

Suffering from Parkinson's disease, Bush had been wheelchair-bound and in failing health. He is survived by his five living children and 17 grandchildren.

According to Bush's longtime friend, the former James Baker, quoted by The New York Times, Bush's final words were to the younger George, who was put on the phone to say goodbye, to tell him he had been a "wonderful dad" and that he loved him.

"I love you, too," Bush replied.

Born on June 12, 1924 in Milton, into a wealthy political dynasty, Bush left school to join the US Navy during World War II.

He flew 58 combat missions and was shot down over the Pacific by Japanese anti-aircraft fire.

He returned home and graduated from before briefly working in the

But the world of was calling this son of a

He served in the US House of Representatives, as Washington's to and as of the before becoming Ronald Reagan's

Eight years later, in accepting his party's nomination for president in 1988, Bush pleaded for a "kinder, and gentler nation."

Bush was a foreign policy pragmatist who led the through the turbulent end of the Cold War and the fall of the

He declared a "new world order" in 1990 and -- backed by a 32-nation coalition -- drove from with a lightning air and ground assault.

The crushing sanctions he imposed on Iraq, however, were blamed by Iraqis for thousands of deaths, drawing him the bitter nickname of "Mr Embargo."

And Panamanians said his invasion of their country in 1989 claimed hundreds of civilian lives.

But it was primarily a weak economy at home that cost him the 1992 election, won by upstart Democrat

In his later years, Bush turned to philanthropy, joining forces with Clinton to raise funds for victims of the 2004 Asian tsunami and the 2010 earthquake, and with ex-presidents Clinton, Carter, George to raise money for hurricane victims in Texas last year.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sun, December 02 2018. 09:50 IST