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US, Australia Mark 50 Years of Military Alliance

The United States and Australia marked the 50th Anniversary of their military alliance with a ceremony Monday in Washington. U.S. President George W. Bush and Australian Prime Minister John Howard took part in the celebration.

President Bush sadi the United States and Australia have long been "natural allies."

"Though half a world apart, we belong to a very close community of values and aspirations," he said.

During a ceremony at a U.S. naval facility in the nation's capital, Mr. Bush presented the Australian government with the ship's bell from the USS Canberra. The Canberra went into service in 1943 at the height of World War II. It carried on the name of an Australian warship that was lost one year earlier during the Battle of Guadalcanal. "This bell is a reminder of a faithful partner in times of crisis and in times of calm," said President Bush.

Prime Minister Howard also used the occasion to praise the ANZUS Treaty, and the military relationship between the United States and Australia. "We have fought side by side with the United States in many conflicts," he said. "We have worked together in peacekeeping operations, most recently in East Timor, and both of us have been forces for the expansion and not the contraction of democracy."

After the ceremony, the two men went to the White House for talks. Mr. Howard was expected to press for negotiations on a new trade pact, but administration officials have made clear President Bush is unlikely to make any new commitments while battling with Congress over his request for expanded trade negotiating authority.