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November 06, 2010 (KATAKAMI / ABC.NET.AU) — Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd has greeted US secretary of state Hillary Clinton as she arrived in Melbourne for a two-day visit.
Ms Clinton touched down at a section of Melbourne Airport that was cordoned off by police and US diplomatic agents.
She was welcomed on the tarmac by Mr Rudd and Australia’s ambassador to the US, Kim Beazley.
“It’s great to have the secretary of state with us in Australia,” Mr Rudd said.
“She is a very welcome guest for these AUSMIN talks here in Melbourne. It’s the first time we’ve had Ausmin in Melbourne – it’s a great city, a great day and it’s great that the secretary of state is going to see this wonderful city.”
Ms Clinton is on a two-week tour through the Asia-Pacific region. Her visit is part of the annual talks between the Australian foreign and defence ministers and the US secretaries of state and defence.
This afternoon she will hold her first official meeting with Mr Rudd and the pair will dine together tonight.
Mr Rudd says he is keen to give the United States greater access to Australian defence bases and confirmed both countries are interested in closer cooperation between their defence forces.
“We in Australia have an interest in ensuring we have continued and increased use of Australian ports, facilities and training facilities and test-firing ranges by the armed forces of the United States,” he said.
Tomorrow Ms Clinton will meet Prime Minister Julia Gillard. The pair met briefly at last month’s East Asia Summit in Vietnam.
On Monday Ms Clinton and US defence secretary Robert Gates will meet their Australian counterparts for talks on issues including Afghanistan and security in the Asia Pacific region.
Ms Gillard says America’s force posture review – an official investigation into the geographical and strategic placement of US forces around the world – will be at the top of the agenda in her talks with Ms Clinton.
“We anticipate that that will give rise to a process of discussion about how that force posture review has implications for Australia,” she said.
“[It] could have implications in future joint exercises; it could have implications in future sharing of joint facilities.”
Also on Sunday, Ms Clinton will front an hour-long forum to respond to questions submitted via video link, and online on Facebook and Twitter, as well as take questions from an audience of people under the age of 35.
The town-hall style event in Melbourne will be hosted by Lateline’s Leigh Sales and broadcast on the ABC. Questions can be posted on ABC News’s Facebook page or on Twitter with the hashtag #hillaryoz.
Ms Clinton was due to visit Australia in January this year, but postponed her trip because of the devastating earthquakes in Haiti.
Meanwhile, Ms Clinton has ruled out running for president in 2012 or 2016, saying the United States should be ready for a woman president but it would not be her.
In interviews in New Zealand, the failed 2008 presidential candidate made clear she had no plans to run again despite talk – fueled partly by her fellow Democrats’ losses in Tuesday’s US mid-term elections – she might embark on a new race.
Asked by TV3 New Zealand whether she ruled out standing for the top US office through 2016, Ms Clinton, according to a US reporter, replied: “Oh yes, yes. I’m very pleased to be doing what I’m doing as secretary of state.”