US first lady cancels trip to Australia, citing pinched nerve

Laura Bush has canceled plans to accompany the US president on next month's trip to Australia, citing a pinched nerve, her office announced Sunday. President George W. Bush is due to arrive in Sydney on September 4, three days before he participates in the September 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 US president is leaving the APEC meeting a bit early in order to be back for the sixth anniversary of the September 11 attacks and to prepare for a crucial September 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.