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By BEN FELLER
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

  bush
  President George W. Bush waves after addressing the CEO summit at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, APEC, in Lima, Saturday, Nov. 22, 2008. (AP Photo/Dado Galdieri)

LIMA, Peru — The White House said quite emphatically that President George W. Bush’s final trip to a summit of Pacific Rim nations was no farewell tour.

Sure sounds like it, though. And a lot of the sentiment is coming from Bush himself.

At a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Bush reflected fondly on their time working together, and joked that his “forced retirement” begins on Jan. 20.

That’s when President-elect Barack Obama takes office.

Bush spokeswoman Dana Perino quoted Bush as saying he “felt a little nostalgic” about having his last meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao as a head of state on Friday.

And the end of his presidency also was on his mind in his sole speech at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit. He reached back to the seminal moment of his eight years in office – the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks – and how nations responded.

He recalled American flags flying from fire trucks in Montreal, Canada; baseball players in Japan observing moments of silence; children kneeling at the U.S. embassy in Seoul, South Korea; and a sign unfurled at a candlelight vigil in Beijing that read “Freedom and justice will not be stopped.”

“When I attended my first APEC summit in Shanghai just a few weeks after September the 11th, 2001, I said that America would always remember the signs of support from our friends in the region,” he said in a speech that focused on the global economic crisis.

“The bonds of unity we felt then remain today,” Bush said, “and they will always remain, long after this crisis has passed.”

Bush still might visit the war zones of Iraq or Afghanistan one last time as president, but on Saturday he and the first lady seemed to indicate that no such trip was in the works.

Bush’s previous trips to the volatile countries to visit U.S. troops have not been announced ahead of time, so it’s still possible that he’ll go before President-elect Barack Obama takes office. But as he made farewell remarks to APEC, he said “Now that I’m headed to retirement, my last trip as president is to APEC here in Lima.”

Earlier, at an adobe housing reconstruction project in Pisco, Peru, Laura Bush said: “This is our last international trip, so Peru is the last country that we’ll visit, George and me, as he’s sitting president.”

He’s only got about eight weeks left to decide.

Seriously. Bibs?

Professional journalists are used to draping various badges around their necks during gatherings of world leaders, a standard security step to clearly identify credentialed media.

But that’s not good enough at this year’s APEC meeting.

Reporters on the front lines of meeting were required to wear blue bibs as credentials.

Dark blue and emblazoned with the APEC logo, the bibs covered one’s frontside and backside, somewhat like a hoodless rain poncho.

The consensus feelings of reporters who had to wear them: disbelief and humiliation. At least one was heard wondering whether he’d be getting a sippy cup, too.

Let’s shake on it. Again, and again.

The art of the photo-op handshake is big business at world gatherings. Each moment allows leaders to show the folks back home that they’ve met with, say, the U.S. president.

But they are also forced moments, not spontaneous ones, so they can be awkward.

On Saturday, Bush came before the cameras with Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso. Bush went for the handshake; Aso was gazing at a backdrop of scenes from picturesque Peru and left Bush hanging. Then the two bumped into each other before getting the handshake straight.

“See you in a little bit,” Bush told the gathered media.

Sure enough, he reappeared shortly with Aso and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak for a three-way handshake. And after those three leaders had a meeting?

Time for one more handshake before the cameras, this time just Bush and Lee.

By this point, even Bush had to laugh. “We’re back,” he said.

All the summit literature calls it the Defense Ministry. Only it’s not. That’s at a different Lima address.

The compound hosting the APEC summit is in fact army headquarters, and there’s a dark story behind it.

It’s a story of torture and murder during Peru’s dirty war in the 1980s and 90s, of two student leaders whose charred remains were found after they were brought here. And of an Ecuadorean air force attache also delivered to the basements of the Army Intelligence Service, accused of trying to recruit Peruvian soldiers as spies.

The Ecuadorean, who also turned up dead, was grabbed during the first term of Peru’s current president, Alan Garcia.

The president who followed Garcia for the entire 1990s – Alberto Fujimori – is now on trial for human rights abuses.

Ironically, thanks to Fujimori, Peru is one of just three Latin American countries in APEC.

Associated Press writer Frank Bajak contributed to this report.

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