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Australian PM backs US President in opposing Iraq withdrawal timetable

Australian PM backs US President in opposing Iraq withdrawal timetable

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said he agreed with U.S. President George W. Bush that setting a timetable for the withdrawal of coalition forces from Iraq was the wrong approach.
Howard, who sent 2,000 troops to back U.S. and British forces in the 2003 Iraq invasion, would not comment on Bush's veto of Democrat-dominated Congress's timetable for troop withdrawal.
Howard said that was "a decision taken in the context of American politics and I won't get into that."
But Howard agreed with his close ally's stance on the Iraq deployment.
"It is not helpful for me or for the president or the American administration to be setting a timetable; rather the whole approach should be conditions-based," Howard told Sky television news.
"As conditions improve, then it will become possible to look at these things, but until they have improved, it's entirely premature and wrong and I therefore support what President Bush has said," he added.
Howard, who maintains 1,400 Australians troops in and around Iraq, said a coalition withdrawal before the Iraqis security forces were self-sufficient would mean that "Iraq will be plunged into deeper chaos than it is experiencing at the present time."
Howard drew allegations that he was meddling in domestic U.S. politics in February when he criticized Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama's plan for withdrawing troops from Iraq.
Democrats and Republicans said Howard should stay out of U.S. domestic issues, and the prime minister suffered blistering attacks from opposition lawmakers who want to bring home Australian troops in Iraq when he told Australian TV that al-Qaida would be praying for victories by Obama and the Democrats.
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said he expected the Democrats would now to back down on the threat to stop funds for the Iraq war.
"The veto doesn't come as a surprise," Downer told reporters in the southern city of Adelaide. "The Democrats have made the political point they wanted to make and my expectation is that a new bill will pass through the Congress."


Updated : 2020-12-02 20:54 GMT+08:00