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Bush Welcomes New Australian Prime Minister


President Bush has thanked Australia for its contributions to Afghanistan and Iraq, despite Canberra's decision to pull its 550 combat troops from Iraq.

Mr. Bush made the comment Friday during a joint news conference at the White House with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

The president said they discussed free trade and economies, Burma and Iran, as well as North Korea and the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program.

Mr. Rudd noted the long-running alliance between the United States and Australia, saying he is confident it has a strong and robust future.

Australia still has nearly 1,000 troops in Afghanistan. Mr. Rudd said his country is in Afghanistan for the "long haul."

The prime minister's visit to Washington is his first since he led his Labor Party to victory in parliamentary elections last year.

His conservative predecessor, John Howard, was a staunch ally of Mr. Bush, especially in deploying Australian troops to Iraq.

Besides the decision to pull the troops from Iraq, Mr. Rudd also reversed Mr. Howard's stand on global warming by ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, which Mr. Bush opposes.

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