Saturday, January 26, 2008

Iraq withdrawal to go ahead, says Smith

The Age

FOREIGN Minister Stephen Smith has ruled out any second thoughts on withdrawing Australia's troops from Iraq. Mr Smith, who will attend talks in Washington this week, is on his first visit to the United States since Labor's election win.

He said yesterday he did not expect the withdrawal to affect Australia's alliance with the US. The Bush Administration had accepted that Australia's withdrawal from Iraq would proceed. Preliminary discussions with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice indicated the US had already taken the withdrawal into account.

Mr Smith said the withdrawal would proceed with "close consultation" with the US and Britain and be completed "in an orderly and sensible way". There was no thought of reconsidering the stand.

"We have made it clear we will fulfil our election commitment for withdrawal of the troops by the middle of this year," Mr Smith said. "But we want to do that in a way which sees minimal disruption, which causes least inconvenience to our allies there."

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