Rice in Australia for regional security talks

March 16, 2006 02:59

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was meeting her Australian counterpart Thursday for talks expected to focus on China's military and economic expansion and the coalition campaign in Iraq, at the start of a three-day trip to one of the United States' staunchest allies. With Monday's third anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq looming, Rice said ahead of her visit to Sydney that once Iraq has a unified national government and Iraqi forces are up to the task of securing the country, "You can be certain that we will be more than pleased to stand down and to have the Iraqis do it themselves." The Pentagon announced this week it was sending up to 800 more troops to Iraq and repositioning thousands of others in response to increased violence in the country and fears of more fighting prompted by a Shiite holiday. Australia meanwhile has announced it will keep troops in Iraq at least well into next year, and broadened the mission of about 450 troops now stationed in southern Iraq.

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