ISLAMABAD, March 3: US President George W. Bush arrived in Islamabad on Friday night for his first visit to Pakistan.

President Bush and his wife Laura flew in to the Chaklala airbase from New Delhi on board Air Force One and were received by Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri.

Two children clad in national dress presented bouquets to Mr Bush and his wife.

The giant blue and white plane landed at night with its window blinds pulled down and the lights off to conceal the president’s presence, an AFP photographer on board said.

The couple waved as they descended the steps from the aircraft.

They were then flown via a US helicopter to the American embassy in Islamabad where Mr Bush was due to spend the night, an official told AFP.

On Saturday morning, President Bush was scheduled to hold a one-to-one meeting with President Gen Pervez Musharraf, the Foreign Office said.

Pakistani and US delegations would then hold talks and Mr Bush would receive a briefing on aid efforts launched after the Oct 8 earthquake.

The US leader is due to hold a joint press conference with President Musharraf.

Later on Saturday, Gen Musharraf was due to host a banquet in Mr Bush’s honour.

Chaklala air base was decorated with portraits of President Bush, President Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.

Strict security arrangements were made on the occasion.

Talking to reporters before the US president’s arrival, Mr Kasuri said Pakistan and United States had cordial relations which would strengthen with the visit.

The foreign minister said that after the 9/11 attacks, the relations between Pakistan and United States had become more important.

Mr Kasuri expressed the hope that President Bush’s visit would open news avenues of cooperation between the two countries.—Agencies

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