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Blair deputy in Bush insult storm

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Prescott has been the subject of media criticism about a sexual affair and offerings of cowboy boots and a Stetson from a U.S. tycoon.

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LONDON, England -- Tony Blair's deputy John Prescott denied Thursday a report he called U.S. President George W. Bush "crap" and "a cowboy."

According to a report in The Independent newspaper, Britain's Deputy Prime Minister said Bush had been "crap" on the Middle East road map and was just a "cowboy with his Stetson on."

The remark is said to have been made at a private meeting in Prescott's Whitehall office on Tuesday with Muslim MPs and other Labour MPs with constituencies representing large Muslim communities.

It was given wider credence having been reported by Independent political writer Colin Brown, who is also Prescott's biographer.

Recently Prescott, a no-nonsense working class politician who was once a steward on a cruise liner, has been the subject of a media storm in Britain.

He was forced to acknowledge that he had an extramarital affair with a woman in his department after photographs of the pair were splashed across tabloid newspapers.

Photos of the British deputy PM playing croquet at grace-and-favor country estate Dorneywood on a working day as stand-in for Blair prompted further criticism. He eventually gave up the perk.

He has also been under fire over accepting a holiday at the U.S. ranch of tycoon Philip Anschutz, who is a said to be in the running for UK government approval for the county's first "supercasino" at the site of the Millennium Dome in southeast London.

Newspapers in Britain reported he turned down gifts of cowboy boots, spurs and a Stetson from the U.S. businessman.

Labour lawmaker Harry Cohen told The Independent that the remarks criticizing Bush were made at a private meeting with a number of Labour MPs in Prescott's Whitehall office on Tuesday.

Prescott issued a statement in which he said: "This is an inaccurate report of a private conversation and it is not my view."

Cohen, MP for Leyton & Wanstead, said Prescott had definitely used the word "crap" about the Bush administration.

He told the newspaper: "He was talking in the context of the `road map' in the Middle East. He said he only gave support to the war on Iraq because they promised the road map.

"But he said the Bush administration had been crap on that. We all laughed and he said to an official `Don't minute that'."

Cohen added: "We also had a laugh when he said old Bush is just a cowboy with his Stetson on. But then he said: `I can hardly talk about that can I?'."

According to The Independent, Prescott has been accused in the past of making his feelings known about the Republican administration in the White House.

He became friendly with Al Gore, the unsuccessful Democrat presidential candidate in 2000, during the negotiations on the Kyoto treaty and allegedly told Gore after his defeat that he was sorry he lost the race to Bush.

Also, according to The Independent, Prescott is also known to have used the word "crap" in relation to U.S. figures.

Earlier this month, he rejected claims he could resign over the row about his links to the bid by Anschutz for a super-casino at the Millennium Dome as "a load of crap".

Prescott was left in charge by Blair when the British Prime Minister went on his delayed holiday but has largely taken a back seat while Home Secretary John Reid has appeared before TV cameras talking about the UK plot to blow up planes across the Atlantic.

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