Obama heralds US-Australia ties

President Barack Obama is heralding Australia as one of America's closest allies.

In a meeting with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Obama thanked Australia for the troops it has sent to Afghanistan. Gillard won election earlier this year to become her country's first female prime minister.

Obama invited Gillard to visit the U.S. next year. Obama had been scheduled to visit Australia earlier this year, but the trip was twice canceled because of domestic priorities.

Gillard says she looks forward to more talks with Obama next week in Portugal during a NATO meeting, which will focus on the Afghanistan war.

Obama is in Japan for meetings at the forum of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.