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Iraq focus for Abbott’s Obama meeting

Abbott to meet Obama on APEC summit sidelines

The fight against Islamic State extremists will be top of Tony Abbott’s agenda when he has a long meeting with Barack Obama in Beijing.

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The prime minister is due to arrive in the Chinese capital on Sunday night before the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) leaders summit.

It marks the beginning of a whirlwind week of diplomacy for Mr Abbott, who will also visit Myanmar for security talks before hosting the G20 in Brisbane.

He is set to have an hour-long meeting with the US president on Monday before APEC officially starts.

They will also give a rare joint press conference.

The leaders’ talks will be firmly focused on the coalition efforts against IS in Iraq.

The meeting comes just days after Mr Obama announced plans to send another 1500 US troops into Iraq.

This roughly doubles US numbers in the strife-torn nation, but Mr Abbott has given no indication he intends to follow suit and boost Australia’s commitment.

Australia has so far provided 200 special forces troops but they are still waiting on final approval to enter the country.

Australian war planes have been participating in air strikes against IS targets for several weeks.

Mr Abbott and Mr Obama will also discuss the agenda for the G20 and are likely to touch on the MH17 disaster.

The prime minister will later take his anger over the Moscow-backed Ukrainian separatist attack on the Malaysia Airlines plane directly to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

They are still set to meet in Beijing, although contrary to reports no time has been set. Officials say the much-hyped showdown is likely to be limited to a brief encounter on APEC’s sidelines in Tuesday.

Mr Abbott made international headlines when he threatened to “shirtfront” the Russian leader over the attack that killed 298 people, including 38 Australians.

He later toned down his language but is still promising a “robust conversation”. He wants Mr Putin to guarantee he’s doing everything possible to help the investigations.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says the shirtfront comment went too far.

“In some ways that weakened our legitimate outrage,” he told ABC TV on Sunday.

He hopes Mr Abbott uses the meeting as an opportunity to get to the bottom of what happened.

“Putin’s not going to tell us the truth,” he said. “But Tony Abbott has to at least ask.”

Also high on Mr Abbott’s APEC agenda will be the China free trade agreement. Negotiations for the long-awaited deal are likely to conclude within days.

Mr Abbott will head to Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, on Wednesday for the ASEAN East Asia Summit.

He will return to Australia on Friday.

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