Source AP ©

Laura Bush not to accompany US president on trip to Australia

Laura Bush is not going to accompany her husband on next month's trip to Australia, citing a pinched nerve.

President George W. Bush is due to arrive in Sydney on Sept. 4, three days before he participates in the Sept. 7-9 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation annual leaders summit being held there, according to Australian Prime Minister John Howard. Bush is to have bilateral talks with Howard and take part in a state visit to Australia before the start of the summit.

Howard has said that the U.S. president is leaving the APEC meeting a bit early in order to be back for the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks and to prepare for a crucial Sept. 15 progress report on Iraq from the top diplomat and military commander there.

Mrs. Bush's press secretary, Sally McDonough, said in a statement that the first lady informed Howard's wife, Janette, on Saturday by phone that she regrets she will not be coming on the trip.

Mrs. Bush injured a nerve in her neck and shoulder earlier this year while hiking and has been treated with physical therapy since, McDonough said. Her doctors have strongly advised her to not travel overseas, saying such long flights could aggravate the problem and cause complications, she added.

The president and his wife are spending a few days relaxing out of sight at their Texas ranch. He arrived in Crawford on Wednesday and has been biking, clearing brush and fishing in boiling temperatures.

On Monday, the president leaves to headline fundraisers for Republican candidates in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Bellevue, Washington. He gives a speech Tuesday about the Iraq war to the American Legion convention in Reno, Nevadaa, before flying to New Orleans.

Mrs. Bush is keeping to her planned, separate schedule, flying to Wyoming Monday to dedicate a national park visitor center and meet with Junior Rangers. She joins with the president in New Orleans. They are to spend Wednesday commemorating the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina there and on the Mississippi Gulf Coast before returning to Washington.

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