SIMI VALLEY, California (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer sought to evoke Ronald Reagan on Wednesday as they spoke about trying to bring the war in Iraq to a successful conclusion.
Rice held brief private talks at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library with Downer, whose country has about 1,500 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and has been one of the staunchest allies of the United States as it wages an increasingly unpopular war.
Addressing an audience of Reagan Library supporters, Rice praised Australia for its practical and political support, calling it a “strong and unbending ally.”
Downer said Australia was clear about its moral support of the U.S.-led war on terror. “We fundamentally believe the United States is a force for good in the world,” he said.
Australia’s troop deployment is expected to be a major issue at elections later this year with the center-left opposition Labor Party promising to withdraw front-line forces if it wins.
Recalling Reagan’s famous Cold War call to the Soviet Union to tear down the Berlin Wall, Rice said seeming impossible changes in world politics were feasible, given courage and steadfastness.
Rice and Downer were later to visit U.S. Marines at the Camp Pendleton base near San Diego. On Thursday, they will visit Northern California’s Silicon Valley before Downer returns to Australia.