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Both image registration and fusion can be formulated as estimation problems. Instead of estimating the registration parameters and the true scene separately as in the conventional way, we propose a maximum likelihood approach for joint image registration and fusion in this paper. More precisely, the fusion performance is used as the criteria to evaluate the registration accuracy. Hence, the registration parameters can be automatically tuned so that both fusion and registration can be optimized simultaneously. The expectation maximization algorithm is employed to solve this joint optimization problem. The Cramer-Rao bound (CRB) is then derived. Our experiments use several types of sensory images for performance evaluation, such as visual images, IR thermal images, and hyperspectral images. It is shown that the mean square error of estimating the registration parameters using the proposed method is close to the CRBs. At the mean time, an improved fusion performance can be achieved in terms of the edge preservation measure QAB/F, compared to the Laplacian pyramid fusion approach.