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Bush makes first visit to Mongolia

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Bush stops to review members of the Mongolian Honor Guard at Government House.

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ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia (CNN) -- U.S. President George W. Bush has thanked Mongolia for standing with him in Iraq and compared the struggle against Islamic radicalism to this country's battle against communism.

"Both our nations know that our responsibilities in freedom's cause do not end at our borders -- and that survival of liberty in our own lands increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands," the president said.

Bush on Monday became the first sitting U.S. president to visit the struggling democracy sandwiched between Russia and China, arriving in the country following two days of talks with Chinese leader Hu Jintao.

After decades of being a communist regime, a democratic coalition party has ruled the sparsely populated desert nation of 2.7 million people since parliamentary elections in 2004.

The Buddhist nation currently has 131 troops in Iraq and about 50 to Afghanistan in support of the U.S. war against terrorism, clinching its status as an ally.

The descendants of Genghis Khan, whose empire once spanned from Southeast Asia to Hungary, fear being overshadowed by China's massive economy, and are keenly eyeing the prospect of more American money through a new U.S. aid program known as the Millennium Challenge Account. (Full story)

China's influence over the economy has become overwhelming, eclipsing Russia in most areas except oil, which Mongolia imports from Siberia.

Iraq dogs Bush

While the United States has an ally in Mongolia, the debate over America's commitment in Iraq has dogged Bush during his eight-day tour of Asia, with growing doubts back home distracting him from promoting U.S. economic and political interests in Asia.

The president spent part of his visit to Beijing responding to heated political rhetoric back home.

He called an influential Democrat who wants U.S. troops home from Iraq a good man, but wrong. (Full story)

"I know the decision to call for an immediate withdrawal of our troops by Congressman Murtha was done in a careful and thoughtful way. I disagree with his position," he said.

This was a noticeably toned down response compared to a White House statement just days earlier, linking hawkish Congressman John Murtha to liberal filmmaker Michael Moore.

Murtha on Thursday said the United States should pull out from Iraq over a six-month period. The retired Marine colonel said he had concluded that the presence of U.S. troops was counterproductive because they had become a magnet for insurgent violence.

During his second stop in South Korea, Bush was dogged by anti-war protests, and a surprise proposal from his host to pull a third of its troops out of Iraq.

But Bush has remained resolute, saying that leaving Iraq prematurely is "not going to happen, so long as I'm the president."

Pressure on China

The president spent Sunday morning church in Beijing, one of five sanctioned and censored by the communist government.

Later Bush took the call to broaden rights for China's 1.3 billion people to its leader Hu.

But with reports of a pre-Bush visit crackdown on dissidents, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed dismay, not progress.

"We've certainly not seen the progress that we would expect and we'll have to keep working on it," Rice said.

The president spent much of his talks pouring over economic differences with the Chinese powerhouse that puts the U.S. at a huge disadvantage.

On Sunday Bush pressed his Chinese counterpart to expand the country's religious, political and social freedoms. The U.S. trade deficit with China was also high on the agenda. (Full story)

Hu promised to take action on the issue, but provided no concrete plan.

Bush did win concessions for action on China's undervalued currency, or expected $200 billion trade deficit, and Bush aides reported some promises from China's premier about another major issue: piracy.

Counterfeit products sold freely at markets in China and exported around the world cost Americans an estimated 750,000 jobs a year, and American business $250 billion. Experts say China makes the bulk of pirated copyright material.

CNN's Dana Bash contributed to this report

Copyright 2005 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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