World

Bush hands out medals to Blair, Uribe and Howard

U.S. President George W. Bush gave his country's highest civilian award to three foreign leaders on Tuesday.

U.S. President George W. Bush gave his country's highest civilian award to three foreign leaders on Tuesday.

In a ceremony at the White House, the outgoing president awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, former British prime minister Tony Blair and former Australian prime minister John Howard. The three were among Bush's most loyal partners on the world stage.

"Each one of them [is] a true friend of the United States who met historic challenges with great tenacity and who provides a lasting example of statesmanship at home and abroad," Bush said at the ceremony in Washington.

Blair and Howard supported Bush's war on terror, while Uribe aided the U.S. war on drugs and helped with the rescue of three American hostages held by the rebel group FARC in the Colombian jungle.

The award was established during the Second World War to recognize notable service during the war, but President John F. Kennedy reintroduced it in 1963 for distinguished civilian service.

Recipients are selected for contributions to the security or national interest of the U.S. or to world peace or for making a significant public or private accomplishment.

Before Tuesday's ceremony, Bush had awarded 78 Freedom medals during his time in office.

With files from the Associated Press