Australians will not replace Brits in Iraq

July 21, 2005 at 7:05 AM
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CANBERRA, Australia, July 21 (UPI) -- Australia will not send more troops to Iraq to replace departing British forces, Defense Minister Robert Hill said Thursday.

British Defense Secretary John Reid said earlier this week he expected British troops to begin pulling out of Iraq within the next year.

But Hill rejected suggestions that Australian troops would take up the slack in southern Iraq, The Australian reported.

Prime Minister John Howard has refused to set a departure date for Australian forces.

"We would like to see our troops home as soon as the job is done," Hill said Thursday, speaking on the HMAS Albatross on the New South Wales south coast.

"When we complete our training of the Iraqi security forces in southern Iraq, we trust that they'll be able to take over the security function and we will no longer be necessary," Hill added.

Australia this year redeployed troops to southern Iraq to provide security for Japanese humanitarian teams. Earlier this month, Canberra also agreed to send 150 elite soldiers back to Afghanistan to help fight a Taliban insurgency.

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