Merkel to visit Bush at ranch in early November

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BERLIN, Sep 28 (Reuters) German Chancellor Angela Merkel will visit US President George W Bush at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, in early November, German and US officials said.

''They will have an intense discussion on a range of bilateral and international issues,'' Ulrich Wilhelm, a German government spokesman, said yesterday.

Bush usually reserves invitations to his Texas ranch for close allies and Merkel will be a first-time visitor on November 9 and 10.

''The president looks forward to continuing his close consultations with the chancellor on shared goals,'' White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said in a statement.

Among the issues the two are likely to discuss are Iran's nuclear programme and independence for breakaway Serbian province Kosovo, both areas where Europe and the United States face a showdown with Moscow.

They were also expected to discuss NATO, Afghanistan, advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace, fighting terrorism, Darfur, Lebanon, Kosovo, trade, and climate change, Perino said.

Merkel has worked hard to mend ties with Washington after her predecessor Gerhard Schroeder clashed with Bush over the US-led Iraq war.

She staged a wild boar barbecue for Bush in eastern Germany last year before they headed to a Group of Eight (G8) meeting in St. Petersburg, where Bush was caught on camera giving the German chancellor a quick backrub.

Last month, Bush hosted new French President Nicolas Sarkozy at his family's seaside compound in Kennebunkport, Maine.

Reuters KK VP0550

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