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Bush condoles death of Senator Jesse Helms

US President George W Bush pays rich tributes to the five time senator and says a Senate committee under his leadership was a powerful force for freedom.
PTI | By Sridhar Krishnaswami, Washington
UPDATED ON JUL 05, 2008 08:39 AM IST

Describing the iconic conservative lawmaker Jesse Helms as an "unwavering champion of those struggling for liberty", US President George W Bush paid rich tributes to the five time senator and said a Senate committee under his leadership was a powerful force for freedom.

"Jesse Helms was a kind, decent, and humble man and a passionate defender of what he called 'the Miracle of America.' So it is fitting that this great patriot left us on the Fourth of July," he said in a statement, referring to the US Independence Day celebrated on Friday.

"And today, from Central America to Central Europe and beyond, people remember: in the dark days when the forces of tyranny seemed on the rise, Jesse Helms took their side," he said.

Bush described his conservative ally as "a stalwart defender of limited government and free enterprise, a fearless defender of a culture of life, and an unwavering champion of those struggling for liberty."

He was once asked if he had any ambitions beyond the United States Senate. He replied, "The only thing I am running for is the Kingdom of Heaven," the President said.

Helms, who died on Friday at the age of 86, was an outspoken Republican who had the Clinton administration, especially the State Department on raw nerves when it came to issues of United Nations funding.

Helms also did not have kind words for India in the aftermath of the nuclear tests of May 1998 and this went over and beyond his sharp criticism of the Clinton administration trying to cozy up to New Delhi.

As the chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Helms had expressed "astonishment" over the Indian nuclear tests.

Helms, former senator form North Carolina, was one of those rare law makers who believed that India posed a direct national security threat to the United States, over and beyond his convictions that sanctions against India in the aftermath of Pokhran 2 should never be removed.

"India's nuclear testing is compelling, additional evidence pointing to the need for a national missile defence to protect the United States.

"Because India has a space-launch capability which can be readily configured as an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), India's actions clearly constitute an emerging nuclear threat to the territory of the United States," Helms said in his opening statement on May 13,1998.

"It is high time that the antiquated 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which prohibits a national missile defence, and which hamstrings even US theater missile defenses, is relegated to the ash bins of history," he added.

Nicknamed "Senator No", Helms did not even spare the conservative wing of his party as much as he despised the liberals; but at the same time making it known that his hatred for left wing regimes did not automatically translate into disrespect for leaders of those that visited the United States.

Helms served for 30 years in the US Senate before retiring in 2003.

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