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Australia Will Not Send More Troops to Iraq, PM Says
Published on Monday, August 25, 2003 by Agence France Presse
Australia Will Not Send More Troops to Iraq, PM Says
 

Prime Minister John Howard denied a report here that Australia is under pressure from the United States to consider a fresh contribution to coalition forces in Iraq.

The Australian newspaper reported that US officials were using informal channels to keep the issue of deploying more Australian troops on the bilateral agenda of Canberra and Washington.

But Howard told reporters during a visit to the Solomon Islands capital of Honiara that he was not aware of any requests by the United States, formal or otherwise, for more Australian troops in Iraq.

Australia had made it clear from the outset of the invasion that Australia would "not be in a position to contribute a large number of peacekeepers", he said.

Australia currently has 852 defence personnel deployed in the Iraq conflict, including troops on security duties, RAAF air traffic controllers and a naval frigate on patrol in the Gulf.

Washington is looking to the international community to supply peacekeepers to help police a power vacuum created by the ousting of Iraqi president Saddam Hussein from power.

An Australian expert on terrorism, David Wright-Neville of Monash University's Global Terrorism Research Unit, said Iraq was becoming more dangerous and the situation there would become worse before it improved.

"That's a decision that the government will have to make, and I'm sure that they'd be very nervous about that decision," Wright-Neville told the Channel Nine television network.

"The situation on the ground in Iraq appears to be deteriorating for a number of reasons."

He said remnants of Saddam Hussein's forces remained determined to draw the Americans and British into a prolonged guerilla war, while evidence had emerged that Iraq had become a magnet for terrorists around the world.

"So that's an environment that I think would worry the Australian government if they were asked to recommit troops to the region."

Copyright 2003 AFP

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