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Bush arrives tonight on landmark visit

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New Delhi, Mar 1: The capital is all set to accord a grand welcome to US President George W Bush who arrives here tonight on a three-day landmark visit to India during which the two countries are expected to iron out their differences on the civilian nuclear energy deal and sign agreements in several areas to boost trade, economic and political ties.

The Air Force One carrying Mr Bush, wife Laura and a high-level delegation which includes Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Chief of Staff Andrew Card and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, is expected to touch down at the Delhi airport at about 2000 hrs.

A 60-vehicle cavalcade will take the US President to Maurya Sheraton, one of the finest hotels in the city, which has been spruced up for his stay.

An unprecedented security blanket has been thrown around the Luyten's Delhi in view of the threat to Mr Bush from various terrorist groups.

Massive protests are being organised by the Left parties and a number of Muslim organisations to protest against the visit.

Mr Bush is only the fifth American President to visit India, the last being Mr Bill Clinton who came calling in 2000 when the NDA government was in power.

Mr Bush's official engagements will begin tomorrow with a ceremonial welcome at the forecourts of the Rashtrapati Bhavan where he will be received by President APJ Abdul Kalam and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Mr Bush will pay tributes to Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat. Mr Bush and his wife will water a mango tree planted there by his father George Bush senior.

The official talks, which assume significance in the wake of glitches in the implementation of July 18 nuclear deal, will be held at the Hyderabad House for three hours.

Mr Bush and Dr Singh will have a one-on-one meeting followed by delegation-level talks.

Dr Singh will host a lunch for Mr Bush and President Kalam host a banquet in honour of the visiting dignitary. Mr Bush will also have a meeting with religious leaders.

UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and leader of Opposition L K Advani will call on Mr Bush.

On the morning of March 3, he will leave for Hyderabad where he will attend a few functions and return to the capital in the afternoon.

When her husband will be busy in diplomatic engagements, the US first lady will attend a children's programme organised by an NGO and also visit Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity.

Mr Bush will also address the intelligentsia at a function at Purana Qila in the national capital before leaving for Pakistan the same night.

UNI

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