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Bush Arrives in Italy on Three-Day European Trip - 2004-06-03

President Bush has begun a week of travel that will take him to Europe and the G-8 Summit in the American resort town of Sea Island, Georgia. Before leaving the White House he met with a key U.S. ally in Iraq, Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

It will be a week of ceremony and substance for the president. He is going to Europe for ceremonies marking the World War II liberation of Rome and the D-Day invasion of France.

Amid all the commemorative events, Mr. Bush says he will be seeking support for his plan to bring democracy to Iraq. Those discussions will continue in earnest when he hosts the G-8 summit.

?I will continue to discuss with world leaders our common responsibility to help the new government of Iraq and our common opportunity to help advance the momentum of freedom,? he said.

Mr. Bush got a positive send-off from Australian Prime Minister John Howard. The two met at the White House just prior to his departure, and during a brief news conference Mr. Howard stressed his support for the U.S. position on Iraq.

?The countries of the free world have a lot at stake in relation to Iraq,? Mr. Howard said. ?If the democratic future of Iraq can be achieved, that will have beneficial consequences not only in Iraq, but it will also be a wonderful demonstration in the middle east and around the world that democracy is not something which is confined to countries that have historically enjoyed it.?

There are currently 850 Australian troops serving in Iraq. Opposition leaders say they want to bring them home. But Prime Minister Howard made clear he supports the coalition mission.

?It is the worst time imaginable for allies to be showing any weakness in relation to the pursuit of our goals in Iraq,? he said.

President Bush agreed, saying a pull-out of troops would be, in his words, disastrous. He said once again that arrangements are being made with Iraq's interim government on the future of coalition troops.

?And I am confident we will work out a mutually acceptable security arrangement with the fully sovereign Iraqi government,? Mr. Bush said.

During the question and answer session with reporters, Mr. Bush was also asked about the status of Australian citizens under U.S. detention at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The president said the United States would fully investigate any allegations of mistreatment there, adding he believed action would be taken soon on the two Australian cases.