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Bush apologizes to Hu for protester

In White House meeting, leaders pledge to deepen cooperation

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Presidents Bush, left, and Hu at a White House ceremony. "We don't agree on everything," Bush said.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. President George W. Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao stressed the importance of their nations' ties after a White House welcoming ceremony, which was disrupted by a lone heckler and the misidentification of China's anthem.

Bush later expressed regret to Hu over the heckling, a senior Bush official said.

After their meeting, the two presidents said they had agreed on the need for tighter relations but did not appear to have made much headway on some of the issues that most separate them, such as Iran's nuclear ambitions and the valuation of China's currency. (Watch the many reasons people protested -- 1:33)

"We don't agree on everything," Bush said, "but we're able to discuss our disagreements in the spirit of friendship and cooperation. It's a very important relationship."

Hu said, "A good China-U.S. relationship is of strategic importance ... in the Asia-Pacific region and in the world at large." (Watch why China matters to Americans -- 1:45)

After the leaders met, U.S. national security adviser Stephen Hadley told CNN they had asked the Chinese to do six things related to human rights, and "they have indicated that there are three of them they are prepared to do after this visit."

He would not specify what those initiatives were.

The two men had "a good discussion" about Iran and its nuclear program, Hadley said.

He said China has expressed reluctance to join the U.S. effort to pass a resolution in the U.N. Security Council that would penalize Iran for moving forward with a nuclear program that some nations see as aimed at developing weapons. But, Hadley added, the two nations do share common ground on the issue.

"Hu made it very clear that he and the president have the same strategic view: that a nuclear Iran is not in the interest of regional stability," Hadley said.

Iran has said its nuclear program is intended for peaceful purposes only.

China, one of the Security Council's veto-wielding permanent members, gets much of its oil from Iran. China's increasing thirst for energy has contributed to the rise in oil prices to record highs.

Also, Washington has complained that China has kept out international goods by keeping its currency, the yuan, artificially low. (Full story)

Bush stresses 'freedoms'

The two presidents spoke on the South Lawn of the White House before their meeting about the issues that tie China and the United States together, calling for respectful discussion of their differences, and afterward used similar language to describe the talks.

"As stakeholders in the international system, our two nations share many strategic interests," Bush said. Hu made similar remarks, noting that the two countries should view each other "as equals."

"Both China and the United States are countries of significant influence," he said, adding that cooperation in trade will "benefit our two peoples and promote economic growth in the Pacific region and the world at large."

Bush said the United States and China "intend to deepen our cooperation in addressing threats to global security."

"We can be candid about our disagreements," Bush said. "I'll continue to discuss with President Hu the importance of respecting human rights and the freedoms of the Chinese people."

Bush called for expanded Chinese freedoms to "assemble, speak freely and to worship."

Through a translator, Hu said China is "ready to enhance dialogue and exchanges with the U.S. side on the basis of mutual respect and equality to promote the world's cause of human rights."

Bush also reiterated his support for the "one China" policy regarding China's renegade province, Taiwan. "We don't support an independent Taiwan," Bush said.

Hu called Taiwan "an inalienable" part of Chinese territory, pledging to seek a peaceful reunification while resolving never to allow Taiwan to "secede from China by any means."

During the welcoming ceremony, the introduction of the national anthems referred to China as the "Republic of China," the term used by Taiwan to describe itself.

China's formal name is the People's Republic of China.

Protests

Bush's expression of regret to Hu was made at the outset of their meeting in the Oval Office, said Dennis Wilder, acting senior director for Asian affairs on the National Security Council.

"[The president] just said 'This was unfortunate,' and 'I'm sorry this happened,' " Wilder said. (Watch how other leaders have dealt with hecklers -- 2:07 )

Wilder said Hu "was gracious" about the incident, in which a Chinese woman shouted at him to stop the persecution of the Chinese religious sect Falun Gong. Hu did not interrupt his speech. (Full story)

The protester was standing on a camera platform on the South Lawn. The woman continued shouting as she was led away by uniformed Secret Service agents.

She shouted in English, "President Bush, stop him from persecuting the Falun Gong!" and in Chinese, "President Hu, your days are numbered."

The Chinese government condemns the spiritual movement Falun Gong as a cult. China began a crackdown on the group in 1999. The Epoch Times, which disavowed the protest, is affiliated with the Falun Gong movement.

The Secret Service identified the woman as Wang Wenyi, 47, a naturalized U.S. citizen who is working as a journalist for The Epoch Times and who had a one-day press pass that gave her access to the platform.

She was charged with disorderly conduct and could face additional federal charges, said service spokesman Eric Zahren.

Hadley said Wang was an accredited journalist who had attended White House events before "and had not raised a problem."

Dozens of Falun Gong protesters, many in traditional Chinese costumes, also gathered outside the White House gates. Other groups there advocated independence for Taiwan and Tibet.

In China, state television did not carry the live ceremony, and CNN's live broadcast of the event was interrupted during the brief protest -- and afterward as reporters discussed it.

'Level playing field'

On Wednesday, Hu promised to open Chinese markets to more American goods and services but urged the United States to relax controls on exports to China in return.

Hu arrived in the United States on Tuesday, landing first in Seattle, Washington, to meet with Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and tour a Boeing aircraft plant.

Hu has also promised to crack down on software piracy by Chinese businesses and enforce intellectual property rights -- another American concern.

The United States had a $200 billion trade deficit with China in 2005, but Hu said Wednesday his government has "worked hard" to open its market to American goods and will continue that policy. (CNNMoney.com: Hu: Trade yes, yuan maybe)

Hu said on Thursday that China hopes "the U.S. government will be able to create a level playing field for Chinese businesses who want to enter the American market. And this will certainly help bring down the trade deficit of the United States."

Bush and Hu have held previous meetings in Beijing, at regional summits and, most recently, on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in September. Hurricane Katrina forced Hu to put off a planned visit to the White House earlier that month.

CNN's Ed Henry and Erika Dimmler contributed to this story.

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