THE government has sensationally backed the White House in its complaint about how RTE's Washington correspondent Carole Coleman conducted an interview with President George Bush on Thursday night.

US authorities expressed concern to the Irish embassy in Washington the following day over Coleman's interrupting of the president on a number of occasions ? a feature of political interviews which is common in Ireland and the UK, but relatively unknown in the US.

In a move which is likely to spark outrage in RTE, the government this weekend said that it was backing the White House in its complaint that the interview techniques were discourteous to Bush.

A government spokesman told the Sunday Tribune this weekend that it had been "conveyed to the US that the Irish government would be sympathetic to that view".

A spokeswoman for RTE said that it was "very happy with the interview, with Carole's standards of journalism and the public's reaction to the interview".

It is understood there were some complaints to the station about Coleman's interviewing style, but sources said they were far outweighed by the number of positive messages received by the station from Ireland and overseas.

A Montrose source said the interview was "of a standard known and expected from an Irish audience perspective".

If the interview had been conducted in a sycophantic manner, there would have been a great deal more complaints.

It is understood RTE bosses regarded the interview as tough but very fair. Sources stressed that at all times Coleman was "impeccable in her courtesy".

The interview has made the headlines in the US. The Washington Times described it as "more combative than any with American journalists".

The Washington Post said that Bush "got downright snippy with an Irish TV reporter when she tried to move him beyond his stock answers".

Meanwhile, international press agency UPI reported that "an Irish reporter threw courtesy aside and repeatedly interrupted President George W Bush during a television interview at the White House".

The Bush visit passed without any major incident. In a press conference yesterday, Bush reaffirmed his commitment to the peace process and said that he shared the concerns of the Taoiseach and other European leaders about the ill-treatment of prisoners in Iraq.