President Tony Tan to make state visit to Britain in October

LONDON (AFP) - The president of Singapore is to make the first state visit from his country to Britain in October, Buckingham Palace announced Thursday.

President Tony Tan and his wife Mary have accepted an invitation to visit Britain for three days from October 21, the palace said.

The announcement came as British Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed his Singaporean counterpart Lee Hsien Loong to his Downing Street office in London for talks.

Mr Cameron said he had discussed the state visit with Queen Elizabeth II on Wednesday during his weekly audience with the head of state.

"I was discussing this with Her Majesty last night and she is very much looking forward to it," he said. "It's excellent news and a moment, I think, to demonstrate our close economic, political and strategic ties."

Britain is attempting to boost its diplomatic and trade presence in southeast Asia.

Singapore gained independence from Britain in 1963 and immediately became part of Malaysia, which it then left in 1965. The visit comes just ahead of the 50th anniversary celebrations in 2015.

Queen Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip have paid state visits to Singapore in 1972, 1989 and 2006.

Their grandson Prince William, second in line to the throne, and his wife Catherine visited Singapore in 2012 as part of the monarch's diamond jubilee celebrations marking her 60 years on the throne and as head of the Commonwealth.

The city-state of Singapore is a fellow Commonwealth nation.

State visits see the head of state of the visiting country hosted by Queen Elizabeth at a castle or palace and typically involve ceremonial events, lavish banquets, cultural visits and political talks.

Mr Tan will stay at Buckingham Palace.

Britain usually hosts two state visits per year. Irish President Michael D Higgins is being received from April 8 to 11.

Last year's state visits saw the presidents of the United Arab Emirates and South Korea welcomed to Britain.