January 25, 2008 / 10:05 PM / 11 years ago

Australia says Iraq withdrawal won't hurt U.S. ties

By Claudia Parsons

NEW YORK, Jan 25 (Reuters) - Australia will not be swayed from the new government’s pledge to withdraw troops from Iraq by the middle of this year, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said on Friday before a trip to Washington next week.

Smith said he did not expect Australia’s withdrawal to affect a long-standing alliance with the United States.

New Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s center-left Labor Party won power in November, ending almost 12 years of conservative rule by John Howard, a close personal and political ally of U.S. President George W. Bush.

Rudd promised to pull about 500 Australian combat troops from Iraq by mid-2008 and has ratified the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, breaking with Washington on both issues.

Speaking to reporters in New York after meeting U.N. officials, Smith said the Bush administration had already taken into account the withdrawal of Australian troops from Iraq.

"So far as we’re concerned there’s no capacity or thought of reopening the issue," he said.

Making his first visit as foreign minister to the United States, Smith said he would discuss how to implement the withdrawal in an "orderly fashion" with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday.

"It’s not something which I believe will disturb what to date has been a very good working relationship between the new government and the (U.S.) administration," Smith said.

"Administrations come and go, governments come and go. The alliance is a long-term, enduring, fundamental relationship between our two nations."

Smith said he would also discuss Afghanistan, to which Australia has committed troops, humanitarian aid and other civilian assistance — an undertaking he said would continue.

Smith said he had "very considerable concerns" about the adverse impact on Afghanistan of events in neighboring Pakistan, especially the assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto in December.

"I’m particularly interested to have a conversation with Secretary of State Rice and other officials about developments in Afghanistan and Pakistan," Smith said. (Editing by John O’Callaghan)




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