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Bush Hosts Australian Prime Minister at Texas Ranch - 2003-05-03

President Bush meets with Australian Prime Minister John Howard Saturday to thank him for Australia's support during the war in Iraq.

President Bush is hosting the Australian leader at his Texas ranch, where they had an informal dinner Friday evening and will take questions from the press later Saturday.

In his weekly radio address, Mr. Bush said Australia helped secure Iraqi missile sites and disrupted Iraqi troop movements, allowing U.S. forces to move on Baghdad.

"All Australians can be justly proud of the superb performance of Australia's air, naval and Special Forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom. America is deeply grateful for their important contributions," he said.

The president says the U.S.-led coalition still has much work to do in Iraq, bringing order to parts of the country where there is still some armed resistance. He says coalition troops are tracking down members of the former government, and are searching for weapons of mass destruction, which was one of the biggest reasons Mr. Bush gave for invading Iraq.

He says the transition from dictatorship to democracy will be hard, but is worth every effort. Coalition troops will stay until their job is over, he says, leaving behind a free Iraq.