PM to push U.S.-Aussie defense support

March 7, 2011 at 2:40 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 7 (UPI) -- Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and U.S. President Barack Obama had no big news to announce after their meeting in the White House Monday.

"We've had a very useful discussion about a wide range of issues," Obama told reporters.

Those talks, he said, including his expressing condolences to Australian families affected by floods recently and renewing the United States' pledge to help Australia "in this moment of hardship."

"We also talked about a wide range of international issues," Obama said. "Australia and the United States have a shared interest in expanding trade in the Pacific region, in promoting clean energy, in making sure that we don't have regulatory barriers that prevent our businesses from working across our borders. And so we're very excited about the prospect of joining forces with Australia and other countries to promote growth and employees in the region.

"We had a good discussion about security. And I want to once again thank the Australian people and the military families who are making such extraordinary sacrifices in Afghanistan.

On the situation in the Middle East, Obama said the bottom line "is I think Australia and the United States stand shoulder to shoulder in sending a clear message that we stand for democracy, we stand for an observance of human rights, and that we send a very clear message to the Libyan people that we will stand with them in the face of unwarranted violence and the continuing suppression of democratic ideals that we've seen there."

Obama said he thinks "from a distance at least," Gillard "is doing an outstanding job; is a very quick study."

Gillard, likewise, offered no meat to flesh out what the two leaders discussed.

"I've talked to President Obama today about preparations for the G20 (Group of 20), about its continuing importance in keeping a focus on growth and on jobs for the future," she said. "And we've talked about the importance of trade, both the Trans-Pacific Partnership, where under President Obama's leadership we are hoping at APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) to see major progress, and also the Doha Round, where we are hoping to see major progress this year."

On Afghanistan, she said she is "very personally committed to, to seeing the mission done and to ensuring we play our part in training the Afghan national army and bringing security to Afghanistan so that the Afghan people can lead their own security."

Gillard was to meet later with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, CIA Director Leon Panetta, World Bank President Robert Zoellick, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other officials and business executives.

Her meeting with Ban will include a pitch for Australia to win one of the U.N. Security Council's rotating, non-permanent seats, The Wall Street Journal said.

Wednesday, she is to be the first foreign leader to address the new Congress, which began Jan. 3. The speech is expected to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Australia-New Zealand-United States Security Treaty, a military alliance that binds Australia and New Zealand and, separately, Australia and the United States on defense matters.

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