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In a moving disclosure on the tough moments of the Persian Gulf war, President Bush says advice from former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher guided him throughout the crisis.

Awarding her with the presidential medal of freedom Thursday, Bush praised her for helping craft the coalition that ultimately triumphed over Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, and he described in particular a telephone conversation with Thatcher at a critical juncture of the crisis."No president could ask for a better friend," he said. "Nor will I forget one special phone conversation that I had in the early days of the gulf crisis. I called her to say that though we fully intended to interdict Iraqi shipping, we were going to let a single vessel heading for Amman enter port down at Yemen without being stopped."

The interdiction effort was a stage of allied attempts to implement U.N. sanctions, including a full blockade.

Speaking of the tense days shortly after the Aug. 2 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, when he consulted with world leaders from his vacation home in Kennebunkport, Maine, he said, "And she listened to my explanation, agreed with the decision but then added these words of caution, words that guided me through the gulf crisis, words I'll never forget."

" `Remember, George, this is no time to go wobbly.' "

Bush said in the early weeks of the conflict, he and top aides at the White House "used that expression often."