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Bush Arrives in Sydney for APEC Summit

04 September 2007

President Bush has arrived in Australia to attend the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. VOA White House correspondent Paula Wolfson reports from Sydney that Mr. Bush will also hold a series of one-on-one meetings, starting with a session with Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

The meeting with the Australian leader is likely to focus on Iraq.

John Howard has been a key U.S. ally throughout the conflict. But public sentiment in Australia has turned against the war. Opposition leader Kevin Rudd has called for the withdrawal of all Australian troops from Iraq, and he is currently leading in the polls with parliamentary elections just a few months away.

During a surprise stop in Iraq while en route to Australia, President Bush defended his war policy and focused on the positive. He went to al-Anbar province where security conditions have improved, largely because Sunni leaders there are cooperating with U.S. forces against a common enemy - al-Qaida.

"The strategy we put in place earlier this year was designed to help the Iraqis improve their security so that political and economic progress could follow," he said. "And that is exactly the effect it is having in places like Anbar."

The president said he wanted to get a first-hand look at conditions in Anbar, and meet with top U.S. officials in Iraq as well as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and members of his government.

In brief remarks to a small group of reporters who traveled with him to Iraq, the president said some U.S. troops could be sent home if security conditions across Iraq continue to improve. And he urged Congress to listen closely next week when the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, and the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, General David Petraeus, testify on Capitol Hill.

"I urge members of both parties in Congress to listen to what they have to say," said President Bush. "They shouldn't jump to conclusions until the general and the ambassador report."

In addition to Iraq, issues expected to come up in the president's bilateral meetings in Sydney include Iran, North Korea, Darfur, and repression of pro-democracy activists in Burma.

Following the session with Prime Minister Howard, Mr. Bush will meet individually on the sidelines of the summit with the leaders of China, Russia, Japan, South Korea and Indonesia.

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