Bush to thank Canberra for support
CANBERRA, Australia (CNN) -- U.S. President George W. Bush has arrived in Australia’s capital on the last leg of his Asia trip to thank Prime Minister John Howard for his steadfast allegiance to the U.S. and support for the war on terror.
Bush will address a joint sitting of the national Parliament, visit the national war memorial and discuss trade and the terror war with Howard during his 21-hour stay.
The Australian government hopes to use the visit to advance the progress of discussions which could lead to the striking of a free trade deal between the two nations.
The Australian government has been a staunch supporter of the Bush administration’s war on terror, contributing troops and military hardware to the actions in Afghanistan and Iraq and backing the U.S. position in international forums such as the United Nations.
Bush has described Howard as a "good friend" and a "man of steel" and the two leaders appear to have established a genuine rapport.
But Bush also created a diplomatic hiccup last week by referring to Australia as a "sheriff" in the Asian region, a description which does not sit well with some of Australia’s neighbors who consider Canberra to be too closely aligned to Washington.
During his speech to the parliament, Bush is expected to thank Howard’s conservative government for its support, and justify the use of military force in Iraq.
Bush is the fourth U.S. president to visit Australia, following Bill Clinton, his father George Bush and Lyndon Johnson in making the trip Down Under.
Police are expecting around 5,000 demonstrators to attend rallies on Thursday with most voicing their anger over the Iraq war. They are also protesting the detention of Australian citizens at Guantanamo Bay military prison.
But security will attempt to prevent protestors from getting within 500 meters of the president and have banned loudspeakers being directed at the official party.
The Canberra visit is the final leg of a six-nation tour by President Bush which included attending the APEC leaders summit in Bangkok, Thailand.
The trip also coincides with a four-day visit from Chinese President Hu Jintao to Australia, although the two leaders’ paths will not cross. Hu will also address the Australian parliament.