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Prime Minister urges UN Security Council not to set a date for the withdrawal of US-led forces from Iraq.



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AM

 

Thursday 3 June 2004

Prime Minister urges UN Security Council not to set a date for the withdrawal of US-led forces from Iraq

 

TONY EASTLEY: The Prime Minister, John Howard has urged the UN Security Council not to set a date for the withdrawal of US led forces from Iraq.  

 

Mr Howard is in the US, where he held talks in Los Angeles about a $5 billion BHP Billiton proposal to supply California with natural gas. Tomorrow he'll breakfast with US President George W. Bush. 

 

But as the UN debates the plan for the post transition of Iraq which spells out a time frame for withdrawal, Mr Howard has said the Security Council debate should be about achieving goals and not reaching dates. 

 

John Shovelan reports from Washington. 

 

JOHN SHOVELAN: Tomorrow Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari will attend an open meeting of the Security Council, the first member of the new interim government to meet council members as it debates a US-British resolution on the June 30 handover of power. 

 

Mr Zebari is expected to make the case for a full transfer of sovereignty. The resolution will give international backing both to the interim Iraqi government and the US-led multinational force that will remain in the country. The draft spells out a rough timeline for the international troops, including an Australian contingent, to leave. 

 

Prime Minister Howard urged the Security Council not to fix a date for that withdrawal. 

 

JOHN HOWARD: Well, I'm a little cautious in relation to particular dates. It's far better to set yourself goals, which will make it possible to leave, rather than set yourself an exit date, subject to achieving those goals.  

 

It's putting the thing the wrong way around. You have to have conditions of stability and security and a real, as well legal assumption of authority, before you can start talking about leaving. 

 

JOHN SHOVELAN: The socialist government of Spain, however, saw the movement toward a time frame as a positive step. 

 

Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos said "Efforts are under way to pin a final date on the presence of the multinational force and that is a good thing." China joined with the Spanish and called for a withdrawal by the end of January next year. 

 

And French President Jacques Chirac has also on the need to set a time limit on the presence of foreign troops. 

 

President Bush's National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice seemed relaxed about the time frame, suggesting that it could always be changed. 

 

CONDOLEEZZA RICE: All of these UN mandates for multi-national forces are reviewed periodically. There's nothing new in that. If they expire, they can always be renewed if necessary. People will look at the circumstances on the ground and see what is needed. 

 

But I do know that the Iraqis want, as quickly as they can, to take responsibility for their own security. We want them to. They need our help - for now. 

 

JOHN SHOVELAN: The original US-British draft called for a review of the multi-national force after a year. Under the revised draft the mandate of foreign troops would expire "upon completion of the political process" to create an elected Iraqi government. That's not expected before the end of 2005 or beginning of 2006. 

 

John Shovelan, Washington.