Australian minister says country withdrawing Iraq troops

Australia's new foreign minister said that though the "very strong alliance" between his country and the United States transcends political changes his new government will proceed with plans to withdraw troops from Iraq this year. "We want to do that in a way which sees minimal disruption, which causes the least inconvenience to our allies there, both the United States and the United Kingdom," Stephen Smith said Friday in New York. Smith is on his first trip to the US since the November election of Labor leader Kevin Rudd, which ended the nearly dozen-year tenure of Conservative Prime Minister John Howard, a staunch supporter of the Bush administration. Rudd promised voters he would withdraw Australia's 550 troops in Iraq by about the middle of 2008.