Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today showered praise on former US President George W Bush, describing him as India's "great friend" who played a key role in ending the country's 34-year isolation in nuclear field.

Mr Singh, who had enjoyed a great rapport with Mr Bush during his tenure, hosted a lunch in his honour besides having a one-on-one meeting to discuss global issues.

The lunch was attended by Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha L K Advani, Congress President Sonia Gandhi, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and party MP Rahul Gandhi.

Ahead of the lunch, the Prime Minister hailed Mr Bush for his key role in ending nuclear apartheid against India.

"Former President George W Bush is a great friend of our country," Mr Singh said at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit which will be addressed by Mr Bush tomorrow.

"We, in India, recognise the important role he (Bush) played in the fruition of the civil nuclear cooperation initiative," said Mr Singh, who had last year told Mr Bush that "people of India deeply love you".

Mr Singh and Mr Bush had taken a path-breaking decision on July 18, 2005 to enter into civil nuclear cooperation which led to lifting of sanctions by the Nuclear Suppliers Group on India for civil nuclear trade with the world last year.

PM's Special Envoy on Nuclear issue Shyam Saran, who played an important role as Foreign Secretary in talks for the Indo-US deal and his successor Shivshanker Menon, who saw conclusion of the pact, also attended the lunch, along with US Ambassador Timothy J Roemer.

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