Australia's commitment in Iraq unaffected by UK

A decision by Britain to reduce its troop numbers in Iraq will not cause Australia to follow suit, Prime Minister John Howard said Wednesday. Howard said he was aware of plans to be announced by British Prime Minister Tony Blair later Wednesday to pull 1,500 British troops out of the southern Iraqi city of Basra after handing security over to domestic forces. "The reason I understand Mr. Blair will give is that conditions have stabilized in Basra so that there can be this decision taken," Howard told reporters in the western city of Perth. "They will still have 5,000 and we will have 550," Howard said. "I don't think it follows from that that there should be a reduction in our 550." Earlier this week, Howard announced he was sending another 70 military trainers to bolster Australia's troop contingent in two provinces in southern Iraq, where they are helping to train domestic security forces.