The visit is being interpreted as a sign Washington is keen to repair relations with countries, like Canada, that opposed the Iraq war.

The two countries are keen to try to put their disagreements behind them, stressing the underlying friendship that exists across the world’s longest undefended border.

Analysts believe the US wants Canadian help with monitoring Iraq elections and training military officers as a signal to other US allies that co-operation without full participation in Iraq is possible.

The Bush administration will be looking for a similar rapprochement when the president embarks on another difficult trip to Europe in the New Year, he adds.

The issue of Canada’s further co-operation in America’s controversial missile defence programme was also discussed, but the full details of those talks are not known.

Highly unpopular among Canadians, opposition to the visit remains strong.

Protestors scuffled with riot police in central Ottawa, as fist fights flared on the fringes of mainly peaceful demonstrations.

Dozens of police in riot gear stretched across a road, preventing a breakaway group of several hundred protestors from reaching a luxury hotel hosting some of the US delegation.

Riot police — wearing helmets, face masks, in some cases gas masks, and carrying riot shields — held back a crowd as protestors sporadically threw sticks, stones, pumpkins and paint bombs.

None the less, the US leader said he’d been cheered by his reception, even though a total of around 5,000 demonstrators gathered to protest his visit.

Demonstrators carried signs bearing biting anti-Bush messages, some centering on the US-led invasion of Iraq, which was highly unpopular in Canada.

“I want to thank the Canadian people who came out to wave — with all five fingers — for their hospitality,” he quipped.

On foreign policy, he said Iran’s agreement to freeze all uranium enrichment activities was “certainly not the final step” in easing US fears that Tehran seeks a nuclear weapon.

“The Iranians agreed to suspend – but not terminate – their nuclear weapons program. Our position is that they ought to terminate their nuclear weapons program,” Bush said.

Bush would not say whether he planned to take Iran before the Security Council or say directly whether he was unhappy about Iran’s agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

“I viewed yesterday’s decision by the Iranians as a positive step. But it’s certainly not the final step,” said Bush, who has accused Tehran of using its nuclear program as cover for a secret effort to acquire atomic weapons.

“It’s very important for whatever they do to make sure that the world is able to verify the decision they have made. And so we’ve obviously got more work to do,” he said.

Iran claims its nuclear program is a peaceful, civilian effort and rejects Washington’s claims.

Earlier Iran’s top national security official and nuclear negotiator Hassan Rowhani stressed that Tehran “has not renounced the nuclear fuel cycle, will never renounce it and will use it”.

“We have proved that, in an international institution, we are capable of isolating the United States,” he said. “And that is a great victory.”

Rowhani, who smiled and joked with reporters during a nearly two-hour-long press conference, claimed the US envoy to the IAEA “was enraged and in tears, and everybody said that the Americans had failed and we had won”.