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Bush heckled in Canberra speech

Bush lays a wreath at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
Bush lays a wreath at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

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George W. Bush
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John Howard

CANBERRA, Australia (CNN) -- U.S. President George W. Bush has been heckled by Australian parliamentarians during an address in which he thanked the nation for its support in the war on terror.

Bush personally lauded Australian Prime Minister John Howard for his "exceptional courage" in committing Australian troops to the war in Iraq and said Australians were traditionally the "first to step forward to fight" in a just cause.

Saying he was proud to call John Howard a friend, Bush raised a laugh by recalling how he had earlier described Howard as a "man of steel".

"That's Texan for 'fair dinkum,'" he said.

Bush later attended a barbecue lunch with leading Australian business, political and sporting figures and also visited the Australian War Memorial in Canberra before boarding Air Force One to fly back to the United States.

His departure from Australian soil ended a whirlwind six-nation Asian tour that took in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders summit in Bangkok, Thailand earlier this week.

But it was Bush's interrupted address to parliament that drew headlines during his 20-hour stay in the Australian capital.

During the speech, Bush vigorously defended using force in Afghanistan and Iraq, saying that terrorists had been trying to gain chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

"America, Australia and other nations acted in Iraq to remove a grave and gathering danger, instead of wishing and waiting while tragedy drew closer," the president said.

Referring to terrorist threats, Bush said: "As free nations in peril, we must fight this enemy with all our strength", adding "we refuse to live our lives at the mercy of terrorists".

As Bush began to talk about the downfall of Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, two separate interjections by Australian Greens Party senators, Bob Brown and Kerry Nettle, forced the U.S. president to halt his address.

The Speaker of the House ordered that the parliamentarians be removed from the house by the Sergeant at Arms but both resisted efforts to have them removed.

Senator Brown called out that President Bush should show respect for the world's laws and said that Australia was not a "sheriff" in Asia.

During the second interjection by Senator Nettle, Bush quipped: "I love free speech". (Hecklers ordered out)

Protests, security

The Australian government has been a staunch supporter of the Bush administration's war on terror, contributing troops and military hardware to the actions in Afghanistan and Iraq and backing the U.S. position in international forums such as the United Nations.

A massive security operation was mounted for Bush's first visit which ensured up to 2,000 anti-U.S. protesters were kept at bay.

Bush delivers his address to parliament on Thursday.
Bush delivers his address to parliament on Thursday.

Outside parliament during the Bush speech, an anti-war demonstration turned ugly with protesters scuffling with police.

At least three people were arrested after protesters broke through security netting near the U.S. embassy, local media reported. But they were forced back by a strong police presence.

Thousands of protesters then marched to Howard's official residence, where the Australian leader hosted lunch for Bush.

Bush is the fourth U.S. president to visit Australia, following Bill Clinton, his father George Bush and Lyndon Johnson in making the trip Down Under.

The trip also coincides with a four-day visit from Chinese President Hu Jintao to Australia, although the two leaders' paths will not cross. Hu will also address the Australian parliament on Friday. (Hu: China committed to trade deals)

Bush arrived in Australia from Indonesia where he spent three hours on the tourist island of Bali, the site of deadly terror bombings a year ago which killed more than 200 people, including around 90 Australians.

Bush has praised Indonesia for its support in the global war on terror and vowed to win the fight against terrorism.

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