Australian minister says country withdrawing Iraq troops
Canadian Press
January 25, 2008

NEW YORK - Australia's new foreign minister said Friday that though the "very strong alliance" between his country and the United States transcends political changes his new government will proceed with plans to withdraw troops from Iraq this year.

"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," Stephen Smith said Friday in New York.

Smith is on his first trip to the U.S. since the November election of Labour leader Kevin Rudd, which ended the nearly dozen-year tenure of Conservative Prime Minister John Howard, a staunch supporter of the Bush administration.

Rudd promised voters he would withdraw Australia's 550 troops in Iraq by about the middle of 2008.

Smith is to meet Monday in Washington with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other administration officials. He said they plan to discuss Afghanistan, where Australia also has troops engaged in humanitarian aid and other civilian assistance. Smith said that effort would continue.

He noted that the strong link between the U.S. and his country goes back to the Second World War, and the relationship has been supported by major political parties in both nations since then.

"It's a very strong alliance - an alliance which transcends changes in governments," Smith said. "Administrations come and go, governments come and go, but the alliance is a long-term, enduring fundamental relationship between our two nations."

In New York, where Smith's visit coincides with a week of events that are "a showcase of Australian talent," he met with UN officials to discuss two issues: proposals for reforming the world body and nuclear non-proliferation.

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