Bush invited Howard and British Prime Minister Tony Blair to attend Camp David talks, but a spokesman for Howard said he thought it best to stay in Australia for the moment.
The Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer will go instead to meet US Secretary of State Colin Powell and other senior administration figures a few days later for talks on the war and emerging humanitarian issues.
Blair is travelling to the United States on Wednesday to discuss the progress of the war.
Howard faced strong criticism from the opposition for being a willing third party in the US-led coalition despite not being considered important enough to be invited to US-British-Spanish summit in the Azores on March 16 when the final decision on war was made.
The opposition Australian Democrats party said Wednesday that Howard was right to reject the summit invitation, adding that he needed to distance himself from Bush.
"I just think John Howard has already been too close to President Bush really and there's plenty of issues here in Australia he really should be dealing with," Democrats Leader Andrew Bartlett told reporters.
Henry L. Marconi PRAVDA.Ru Sydney
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