Australia denies intent to withdraw Iraq trooops

Prime Minister John Howard dismissed a news report Sunday that said he has a secret plan to begin withdrawing Australian troops from Iraq in February. "The story from this morning is absurd," Howard told reporters. "The plan is so secret, I don't know anything about it. I'm denying that story, full stop." Sydney's The Sunday Telegraph cited unnamed sources as saying the Australian withdrawal was expected to begin at the same time as the United States begins to draw down its combat troops in February 2008. The U.S. has yet to announce any planned redeployment of its forces. Australia has 1,000 troops in Iraq supported by 600 navy and air force personnel in the region.