Friday, December 09, 2005

Australian Prime Minister says Australian Troops Likely To Extend Mission In Iraq

Australian troops protecting Japanese forces in Iraq likely will extend their mission for as long as the Japanese remain there, Prime Minister John Howard said Friday.
Japan said Thursday it would keep about 600 troops in the southern Iraqi city of Samawah on their non-combat mission that is limited to purifying water and other aid tasks. Australia has 450 troops in the region protecting the Japanese and training Iraqi troops. ``It is unlikely we will be out by May. It is far more likely ... and this will depend a great deal on how things unfold, that we will be there for a longer period,'' he told the Southern Cross Radio network. Howard is a strong supporter of the coalition in Iraq. Defying widespread public protests, he sent 2,000 elite troops to take part in the invasion of the country and still has more than 1,300 military personnel there. ``Over time if democracy can be further introduced and begin to be consolidated and the local security forces continue to be enhanced, then you can then start looking at some kind of wind-down of foreign forces,'' he said. ``I don't want our forces to stay any longer than necessary,'' he added. Australia is guarding Tokyo's troops because Japanese military action is strictly limited under the country's U.S.-drafted 1947 constitution that bans Japan from offensive military action.