Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says a local journalist who threw his shoes at former U.S. President George Bush does not have the support of most Iraqis.

An Iraqi court this month sentenced journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi to three years in prison for assaulting Mr. Bush when he visited Baghdad last December while still in office.

Mr. Maliki told an Australian television network (SBS) that shoe-throwing goes against the values and ethics of the Iraqi people, who he says are respectful to their guests.

Zaidi became a folk hero to many Arabs after he threw his shoes at Mr. Bush while the U.S. leader was standing next to Mr. Maliki at a news conference.  Zaidi's family and supporters denounced the three-year sentence as too harsh, and they vowed to appeal.

Mr. Maliki expressed no sympathy, saying that under Iraqi law, Zaidi could have faced much a tougher sentence, ranging from 15 years to execution.

SBS broadcast the interview with Iraq's prime minister Sunday after recording it during his visit to Australia earlier this month.

Zaidi says he threw his shoes at Mr. Bush to protest the president's talk of "victory" in Iraq after years of war and destruction following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.