Asia Economy

Bush Due in Sydney for APEC, Protests Planned


After a lightning visit to Iraq, U.S. President George W. Bush arrives in Australia on Tuesday where he can expect anti-Iraq war protests as he attends an Asia-Pacific leaders' summit in Sydney.

The majority of Australians are opposed to the U.S.-led Iraq war, despite their government's full support and Australian troops serving in Iraq.

Bush is due to arrive in Sydney on Tuesday night, a few hours after a "Stop Bush 2007" rally in front of the city's main railway station.

Several protests are planned for the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum (APEC) week, culminating in a major march by the "Stop Bush Coalition" on Saturday, when the 21 Asia-Pacific leaders hold a summit at the Sydney Opera House.

Police have refused to grant a march permit for Saturday's demonstration and say they expect violent protests at APEC, launching the nation's biggest ever security operation.

"Police will not tolerate unlawful, illegal or dangerous behaviour and we will take swift action. We cannot make it any clearer," said police after agreeing to Tuesday's rally.

Authorities have erected a 5-km (3-mile) security fence across the central business district to isolate the leaders in the Sydney Opera House and nearby hotels. A total of 5,000 police and troops are patrolling the city centre.

"We need to recognise that there will be many thousands of Australians peacefully protesting against Bush during APEC and they are in the majority," said New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties president Cameron Murphy.

But he said the anti-Bush sentiment did not mean Australians were anti-U.S.

"As Australians we still believe strongly in the U.S. alliance but most of us think that it would be better served without President Bush, said council president Cameron Murphy.

Environment Protests

An opinion poll released on Tuesday and commissioned by the Medical Association for the Prevention of War found 52% of Australians believed Bush was the worst president in

U.S. history. Just 32% said he was not, while the remainder were undecided.

"There is a clear majority of Australians who believe George Bush is the worst...and that is based primarily on his Iraq war policy," said association spokesman Robert Marr.

Protesters also plan to demonstrate against global warming, human rights abuses in China and nuclear proliferation.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard has made climate change a major issue at APEC, but has said there will be no binding greenhouse gas emission targets, while the United States will push for a strong statement from the leaders towards a world trade pact.

Green protesters chained themselves on Tuesday to equipment in the Australian port of Newcastle in the third APEC protest this week. Australia is the world's biggest coal exporter.

"Several protesters chained themselves by the neck to a coal loader," said police. "Several activists are still locked to machinery, stopping work in the world's biggest coal port."

APEC's economies -- which include the United States, Japan, China and Russia -- account for nearly half of global trade and 56% of the world's gross domestic product.

Asia-Pacific leaders will pledge to ensure that the Doha round of global trade talks "enter their final phase this year", according to a draft APEC leaders' statement obtained by Reuters.

World Trade Organisation talks resumed on Monday in Geneva to discuss draft texts aimed at breaking the deadlock between developed and developing nations in global trade talks.

The first leader to arrive in Australia was Chinese President Hu Jintao, who landed in Western Australia state on Monday, where he was greeted by a Falun Gong candlelight protest against human rights abuses in China.

Hu will visit an iron-making plant on Tuesday in the state, which is a major exporter of commodities fuelling China's booming economy, then fly to the Australian capital Canberra, before landing in Sydney later in the week.

A Falun Gong rally in Sydney's main Hyde Park on Tuesday was expected to attract 1,000 people, police said.