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Australia says 'hard sell' keeping troops in Iraq

time to cut and run before election day johnny boy
by Staff Writers
Sydney (AFP) Aug 12, 2007
Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer Sunday said keeping soldiers in Iraq was a "hard sell" with a public which is losing patience with the slow pace of progress.

Downer said the government was committed to keeping its soldiers in place but acknowledged that "the public's patience is wearing pretty thin on this issue."

"Not that our government's committed to just walking away from Iraq, but you will get people electing elements that do want just to walk away from Iraq," he told Australian television.

"It's a hard sell to our people when the process of reconciliation isn't working as fast as it should."

The conservative government of Prime Minister John Howard has been a staunch supporter of the US-led war in Iraq, with troops on the ground since 2003.

But in this year's national election, Howard's government will face a resurgent centre-left Labor Party which has called for a staged withdrawal from the war.

Howard Saturday said he had written to his Iraqi counterpart Nuri al-Maliki to demand more progress in stabilising the country and distributing oil wealth.

"The Americans in particular are making an enormous sacrifice, they are losing troops every day," Howard said.

"I am insisting that it is his responsibility to make progress."

Downer said that the violence in Iraq could potentially see the US Congress refuse to fund further operations in the country.

"I don't think the US Congress is anywhere near that point," he said.

"But down the track, if the Iraqis themselves aren't seen to be making enough effort in the area of reconciliation, patience in the US Congress will wear thinner than it already is."

Downer said he had urged Maliki to set up a high-level conference of factional leaders to facilitate political reconciliation.

"At the end of the day, we obviously still hope that will happen but the process has taken a good deal longer than we had hoped," Downer said.

Australia has about 1,500 troops committed to the Iraq war, some of whom are based in nearby countries.

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US 'surge' in Iraq 'likely to fail': British lawmakers
London (AFP) Aug 12, 2007
The US "surge" of troops in Iraq is likely to fail, a British parliamentary committee said Monday as it delivered a critical report on London's foreign policy in the Middle East.

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