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IN THE NEWS - October 25, 2003: President Bush's Trip to Asia - 2003-10-25

This is Steve Ember with In the News, from VOA Special English.

President Bush has returned to Washington after visits to six Asian countries. He met this week with leaders in Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and Australia. They discussed ways to strengthen security and trade ties.

On Thursday, Mister Bush spoke to the Australian Parliament in Canberra. He defended the United States’ decision to go to war in Iraq. Mister Bush praised Australian Prime Minister John Howard for sending two-thousand troops to Iraq. He also defended the continued holding of two Australians captured during fighting in Afghanistan. They are held at the American prison in Guantanamo, Cuba.

Prime Minister Howard said Australia is a nation divided on the war in Iraq. In parliament this week, forty-one opposition lawmakers signed a letter criticizing President Bush's decision to go to war. They said no clear and present danger existed.

Mister Bush traveled to Australia after a brief stop on the Indonesian island of Bali. Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population. Mister Bush said President Megawati Sukarnoputri has taken effective steps against terrorism. He promised more than one-hundred-fifty million dollars to support education programs as part of the fight against religious extremism.

Bombings on the island of Bali a year ago killed more than two-hundred people, ninety of them Australian. The Jemaah Islamiyah group in Indonesia is held responsible. That group is linked to the al Qaeda terrorist network.

Mister Bush also met with moderate Indonesian Islamic leaders to answer criticism of American foreign policy in the Middle East. They said it is directed toward Israel. Mister Bush told them it is directed toward peace. He noted he is the first American president to support an independent Palestinian state.

During his stop in Singapore, Mister Bush urged that country to use its financial influence to help strengthen other Asian countries. In the Philippines he promised to help the army modernize. In Tokyo, Mister Bush urged Japan to halt efforts to weaken the Japanese yen.

And, in Bangkok, the president attended a two-day meeting of APEC, the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation group. The United States and the twenty other APEC members agreed on ways to speed the war against terrorism.

They also called for the renewal of world trade talks that ended without agreement in Cancun, Mexico. And they agreed to work to restart talks about ending North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

Mister Bush faced protests in several countries. There was anger about the decision to go to war in Iraq. On his way back to Washington, the president met with Pacific island leaders in Hawaii. He also raised money for his re-election campaign.

In the News, from VOA Special English, was written by Cynthia Kirk. This is Steve Ember.