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Bush Invites Mexico Chief to Ranch

July 30, 2002

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ Mexican President Vicente Fox is the latest world leader to win an invitation to President Bush’s Texas ranch.

The two presidents will meet on Bush’s 1,600-acre spread in Crawford, Texas, on Aug. 26, Bush administration officials said Tuesday. Fox has requested permission from the Mexican Congress to travel to Texas Aug. 26-28. Mexican presidents need permission to leave the country.

Fox will make the visit as part of a three-day swing through the major hubs _ Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio _ of the state that shares a 1,951-mile border with his country.

White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, asked about reports of a Bush-Fox meeting, confirmed them with a chuckle, saying: ``You’re asking me about something we haven’t announced yet, so how in the world could I discuss President Fox’s visit with President Bush late this August that we haven’t announced? The president always looks forward to welcoming foreign leaders to his ranch. He and President Fox have a very close friendship and relationship. And without confirming the meeting, we will have more to say about it as it approaches.″

In a more official statement later Tuesday, Fleischer announced that Bush will meet at the White House on Sept. 23 with President Askar Akayev of the Kyrgyz Republic.

``The Kyrgyz Republic has made major contributions to the global war on terrorism, including provision of the airbase at Manas for use by the international coalition to conduct counter-terrorist operations in Afghanistan,″ Fleischer said.

``As our two countries expand the range of our relationship and deepen our cooperation on critical democratic and free market reforms, we will lay the foundation for a lasting relationship with the Kyrgyz Republic and its people.″

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