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Bush, Hu Discuss Human Rights, Taiwan

U.S. President George Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao discussed human rights and political freedoms in China, ahead of next month's Olympic Games in Beijing. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from Japan, where the two leaders met on the sidelines of a meeting of the Group of Eight leading industrial nations.

Human rights activists as well as some Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress have urged President Bush to boycott the opening ceremonies to protest restrictions on religious freedoms in China, as well as Beijing's policies in Sudan, Tibet and Burma.

Mr. Bush says his decision to attend the games in no way compromises his commitment to human rights. Speaking to reporters following his talks with President Hu, President Bush said he is looking forward to the opening ceremonies.

"I reminded him that not only am I coming but my wife, my mother and dad will be there, and we are looking forward to your hospitality. And, of course, in this context the president and I have constantly had discussions about human rights and political freedom. He knows my position," said Mr. Bush. "And, as I told our people, Mr. President, I don't need the Olympics to talk candidly with somebody who I've got good relations with."

Mr. Bush says he is looking forward to watching the American Olympic team compete, particularly against what he called the mighty Chinese team.

"And, I'm hoping to get tickets for the U.S. / Chinese basketball game," he said. "If you can help me get a ticket, I'd appreciate it."

President Hu says the American leader will be most welcome at the opening ceremonies.

President Hu says he appreciates that President Bush has expressed his opposition to politicizing the Beijing Olympics. President Bush says not going to the opening ceremony would be an affront to the Chinese people which he believes may make it more difficult to speak frankly with Chinese leaders.

Several heads of state have said they will not attend the games, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel. During this G-Eight summit on the Japanese island, Hokkaido, both Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and French President Nicholas Sarkozy confirmed their intention to attend.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown will be at the closing ceremony to accept the symbolic torch as the leader of the nation to host the next Summer Games in 2012.

President Bush and President Hu also discussed trade, counter-terrorism, energy, environmental protection and the nuclear issues involving North Korea and Iran.

President Hu says close cooperation between China and the United States not only serves the fundamental interests of both countries, but also has a major impact on peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region.

President Hu says he briefed President Bush on the state of relations between China and Taiwan and hopes Washington maintains its current policy toward the nation that Beijing considers part of its people's republic.