RIYADH (AFP)-International tensions continue to grow over the disastrous goodwill tour of Laura Bush, the wife of United States President George W, Bush, after the American First Lady secretly converted to Islam in Jerusalem and later entered a harem owned by the House of Saud in Riyadh.
Laura Bush had faced intense Palestinian and Israeli protests in May while touring Jewish and Muslim holy sites in the Old City of Jerusalem. Mrs. Bush had just spent a few moments of silence in the women's section of the Western Wall, although she was confronted by Jewish protesters upon leaving. She then met an equally hostile response from Arab protestors at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, where stones began to fly.
Bush Administration officials speculate that about that time Mrs. Bush become disoriented after being hit by one of the rocks thrown by the Arab protesters, just before entering the golden topped Dome of the Rock.
"We're not sure how it happened, but at that point she apparently decided to convert to Islam, and she was in the right place at the right time," explained a spokesman for the Bush Administration at the US Embassy in Cairo. "She was already wearing a black head scarf and in her confusion, she must have looked and sounded like she was ready to accept the faith. She told her guards to buzz off.' "
The spokesman refused to fault the Secret Service agents who were accompanying the First Lady, because in the Middle East "almost anything can happen."
"We're also not sure how she ended up in Riyadh, but we believe that she may have met a Saudi Prince in the Dome of the Rock, and was whisked off to Saudi Arabia in his personal jet," he speculated. Yet some claim the whole thing was carefully planned.
"It's mainly a publicity stunt," said Abdul Bazen, a 65-year old camel driver and seller on the outskirts of the Saudi Arabian capital. "President Bush is just trying to gain favor with Arab and Islamic communities by giving his wife to Islam, and selling her into a harem. But this won't atone for his failed Middle Eastern policies and his lack of respect for the Qur'an."
It is believed that a look-alike of Mrs. Bush continued the tour on to Jericho. But many sources have revealed that the real First Lady is definitely in Saudi Arabia at present.
Embassy officials of the Bush Administration in many countries are trying to tone down the uproar surrounding the international incident and extricate Mrs. Bush from the harem, although they see some benefit arising from her conversion to Islam.
These disturbances "just go to show what an emotional place the Middle East and these holy spots really are" added the embassy spokesman, who requested anonymity.