Australian PM: No plans to increase troops in Iraq

Australia does not plan to contribute to a potential surge in troop numbers in Iraq, Prime Minister John Howard said Friday. "I don't have any plans at present to increase Australia's troop commitment, nor do I have any plans to reduce it," Howard told the Nine Network television. Australia sent 2,000 troops to back American and British forces in the 2003 Iraq invasion. It now has about 600 troops inside Iraq, 450 of whom are providing support for Iraqi security forces in two southern provinces. The remainder are guarding Australian diplomats in Baghdad, training Iraqi troops or disarming explosives. American officials are considering broad changes to Iraq policy, including a possible short-term surge in US troop numbers. Howard said he would be notified if US President George W. Bush decided to send more troops, but that would not mean Australia would follow.