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Howard and Downer refuse to rule out more troops.



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Kevin Rudd Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs & International Security

16 March 2005

HOWARD AND DOWNER REFUSE TO RULE OUT MORE TROOPS

Prime Minister Howard was asked today in Parliament to rule out sending even more Australian troops to Iraq, following Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s statement concerning the withdrawal of Italian troops.

Mr Howard refused to do so.

Mr Downer also refused to do so when he said: “we don’t have any intention of sending further troops to Iraq at this stage”.

John Howard has already broken his word to the Australian people on this matter. His pre-election statements were unequivocal:

“I can definitely say we won’t be adding hundreds, I can definitely say that we’re not going to have a capacity to put more regular soldiers on the ground, we just don’t have that…” (2UE, 27 April 2004)

The Howard Government’s word cannot be trusted on national security - whether it’s about stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons warranting a unilateral invasion; or assurances not to significantly increase Australia’s troop

deployment.

So what does the Italian statement mean for the security situation in southern Iraq?

A considerable number of Italian troops are deployed at Tallil Airbase - not far from the proposed new Australian deployment at As Samawah.

Labor asked what changes in the security situation in the broader As Samawah region would arise from the withdrawal of Italian troops and the impact this

would have on the security of the Australian deployment scheduled for May today in Parliament.

The Government refused to provide any information to Parliament on this important question. Ends. 16 March 2005