Australia to withdraw troops from Iraq this year

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Stephen Smith, Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Australia will press on with plans to withdraw its troops from Iraq in June this year, although promises were made by the nation's foreign minister that relations with the United States will not be affected by the move.

Foreign minister Stephen Smith said that the withdrawal will be conducted in an orderly fashion to minimise inconvenience to other nations in Iraq. Speaking in New York as part of his first US visit since the election he said "We want to do that in a way which sees minimal disruption, which causes the least inconvenience to our allies there, both the United States and the United Kingdom."

Australia currently has 550 troops in the country.

On Monday Smith will meet with Condoleezza Rice and others to discuss Afghanistan, where Australia also has troops stationed. It is currently the intention for this to remain the case.

Smith said of the effect on relations with the US - which have been strong since World War II - "It's not something which I believe will disturb what to date has been a very good working relationship between the new government and the (U.S.) administration. It's a very strong alliance - an alliance which transcends changes in governments. Administrations come and go, governments come and go, but the alliance is a long-term, enduring fundamental relationship between our two nations."

The confirmation is important as Australia saw a new government elected in November. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd (Labour) defeated Conservative head and former PM John Howard. Howard is a supporter of US President George W. Bush and his government.