Australian PM: Troops not leaving Iraq soon

American troops are "not about to go" from Iraq, and therefore neither are Australian forces, Australia's Prime Minister John Howard said Thursday. Howard, who triggered a furor this week about interfering in US domestic politics by criticizing Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama's plans for Iraq, declined to say how long he expected Australian troops to be in Iraq. "I wouldn't describe it as decades, but I am not going to try and put some target date," Howard told reporters. "I certainly believe that if the Americans decided to go, then I don't think any other members of the coalition would remain. But America is not about to go," he said. Howard, a staunch ally of US President George W. Bush, has come under fire for criticizing Obama's plan to withdraw American troops from Iraq by March 2008, saying al-Qaida would be praying for him and the Democrats to win next year's presidential election.