CANBERRA, Australia – President George W. Bush will arrive in Australia for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders' forum next month two days early so he can be back in Washington in time for a progress report on the war in Iraq, Australian Prime Minister John Howard said Friday.
Gen. David Petraeus, U.S. commander in Baghdad, is due to brief the government on operations in Iraq in early September.
Howard said Bush would arrive in Sydney on Tuesday, Sept. 4 — three days before the weekend summit.
"He's arriving on Tuesday night but he has to leave a little early — he'll have to leave in the middle of the weekend because he must be back in Washington to prepare for the Petraeus report to Congress on the situation in Iraq," Howard told Southern Cross Broadcasting.
Bush also has to be back in the United States for the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Howard said.
"It's essential to be in the country when those commemorations take place," he said.
"He naturally has put a high priority on meeting his commitment to come to the APEC meeting in Sydney," Howard said.
Howard had been planning to have bilateral talks with Bush after the APEC meeting. Those talks will now be held before the APEC summit, he said.
"We'll have a series of bilateral discussions and he will also take the opportunity — because other world leaders will be arriving in Australia to have bilateral meetings with them," Howard said.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. embassy in Canberra said only the White House could comment on Bush's itinerary.