CANBERRA, Australia (AP) -- Australia's prime minister came under fire at home Friday over a playful salute he gave President Bush at a NATO summit, which critics said seemed to suggest Australian subservience to Washington.
Australian television repeatedly broadcast videos of the gesture Thursday on the sidelines of the Bucharest summit and speculated about what it meant, while opposition lawmakers said it belittled Australia.
"We are not the 51st state of the United States of America and Mr. Rudd's salute carried a subservient connotation many Australians won't like," said Bob Brown, leader of the minor opposition Greens party.
Mr Rudd made the gesture and smiled when he spotted Mr Bush across a room at a Bucharest summit on military action in Afghanistan.
Mr Bush famously labelled former prime minister John Howard his deputy sheriff in the Asia-Pacific region in 2003 for his support of US foreign policy, raising eyebrows among Australia's Asian neighbours.
After a meeting in Washington last week, Mr Bush anointed Mr Rudd the successor to another moniker he gave Mr Howard: man of steel.
Wow. Snappy. Think he's running out of nicknames?