But security issues will likely remain at the fore, with Bush urging coalition partners to stay the course and keep their support for US policy in Iraq and Afghanistan.

 

"Whether it be Afghanistan or Iraq, we've got more work to do"

George Bush,
US president

Australia, the host of this year's Apec summit, has more than 2,500 troops in both countries, and any withdrawal plan will be an issue in the national elections due early next year.

 

In an interview with Australia's Sky News aired on Friday, Bush cautioned against any hasty troop pullout.

 

"I understand that everybody has got their own internal politics. My only point is that whether it be Afghanistan or Iraq, we've got more work to do," he said. "We, the free world, have got more work to do."

 

Tight security has been put in place
for the summit of Apec leaders [AFP]
"My attitude is, coalition partners ought to be making decisions based upon conditions on the ground, because failure in Iraq would lead to, in my view, turmoil, chaos in the Middle East and other attacks on the United States and other nations," he added.

 

As well as talks with John Howard, the Australian prime minister, Bush is also expected to meet Kevin Rudd, leader of the opposition Labour Party, who has called for an immediate pull out of Australian forces from Iraq.

 

The US president is also expected to hold talks with the leaders of Japan, South Korea, China and Russia, and will urge them to continue backing Washington on its stand against North Korea's nuclear programme.

 

Nuclear talks

 

This weekend officials from the US and North Korea are scheduled to hold bilateral talks in Geneva aimed at pushing forward implementation of the six-party disarmament deal reached in February.

 

In a White House briefing to reporters on Bush's trip to Australia, Dennis Wilder, senior director for East Asian affairs, said he expected North Korea to soon begin the permanent disablement of its plutonium-producing reactor at Yongbyon – a key step in the disarmament process.

 

"The next steps that the North Koreans have promised are a full declaration of their nuclear programmes, be they the plutonium programme, be they whatever they have done on the uranium side, and we are looking forward to the North coming forward with that declaration," Wilder said

 

Last month the UN's nuclear watchdog confirmed the shutdown of four nuclear facilities at Yongbyon, and said North Korea was cooperating with monitoring experts.