George Bush addressed 50,000 disciples of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, ignoring critics who accused him of lending his name to an unscrupulous cult.

As Bush urged the group Thursday to devote itself "to finding ways to strengthen the family," Japanese mothers stood outside passing out leaflets and describing how Moon's Unification Church split their families apart."They are like manipulated puppets," Teruko Honma, leader of one opponents' group, said of Moon's young followers.

The former president and his wife, Barbara, spoke at the Tokyo Dome stadium before an assembly of the Women's Federation for World Peace, headed by Moon's wife, Hak Ja Han Moon.

Bush did not mention the protests or the Unification Church in his half-hour speech. Bush's topic was U.S.-Japan relations, but his most spirited remarks focused on how he had led the multinational force against Saddam Hussein in the Persian Gulf War.

Both Bushes were effusive in their praise for the women's federation and its chairwoman, Motoko Sugiyama. Barbara Bush said she was thrilled to be invited to Japan for the gathering and called Sugiyama "my younger sister."

Officials of the women's federation insisted it was separate from the Unification Church but acknowledged it follows Moon's teachings.

The Unification Church, based in South Korea, presents itself as mainstream Christian, but critics have accused it of devious recruitment tactics, brainwashing members and duping them out of money.