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Australian combat troops to be out of Iraq by mid-2008


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Australian combat troops to be out of Iraq by mid-2008
ROHAN SULLIVAN Associated Press November 30, 2007 at 4:15 AM EST
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SYDNEY — Australia's new leader said Friday that he would pull his country's combat troops out of Iraq by mid-2008 — making good on an election promise that is likely to disappoint the U.S. government.

Labor Party leader Kevin Rudd swept to power at elections last Saturday that ended more than 11 years of conservative rule under John Howard, who had strong personal ties with U.S. President George W. Bush and was one of Washington's few staunch allies in Iraq.

“The combat force in Iraq we would have home by around about the middle of next year,” prime minister-elect Rudd told a radio station in the southern city of Melbourne.

Mr. Rudd went to the polls with a policy of withdrawing Australia's 550 combat forces in Iraq, while leaving several hundred other troops there in supporting roles such as guarding diplomats. Australia also has about 1,000 troops in Afghanistan, a deployment Mr. Rudd supports and has no plans to reduce.

Mr. Bush was the first foreign leader to phone Mr. Rudd to congratulate him on his election victory, and the Australian leader said he would visit Washington early next year, with Iraq certain to be at the top of the agenda.

Mr. Rudd said Friday that his government had not begun discussions with U.S. officials about the withdrawal plan, and that a meeting with U.S. Ambassador Robert McCallum would be arranged soon.

Earlier this week, Mr. McCallum said U.S. officials looked forward to talking the plan over, and noted that it did not mean all Australian troops would be leaving Iraq.

“It's a situation ... where Australia is determining how it's going to reposition its forces, how it's going to deploy its resources in a new and different way, and we are looking forward to working with Mr. Rudd in achieving it,” Mr. McCallum told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.
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