Australia backs Bush in veto on Iraq withdrawal

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said he agreed with US President George W. Bush that setting a timetable for the withdrawal of coalition forces from Iraq was the wrong approach. Howard, who sent 2,000 troops to back U.S. and British forces in the 2003 Iraq invasion, would not comment on Bush's veto of Democrat-dominated Congress's timetable for troop withdrawal. Howard said that was "a decision taken in the context of American politics and I won't get into that." But Howard agreed with his close ally's stance on the Iraq deployment. "As conditions improve, then it will become possible to look at these things, but until they have improved, it's entirely premature and wrong and I therefore support what President Bush has said," he added. Howard, who maintains 1,400 Australians troops in and around Iraq, said a coalition withdrawal before the Iraqis security forces were self-sufficient would mean that "Iraq will be plunged into deeper chaos than it is experiencing at the present time."