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Ex Australian PM defends Iraq policies

02 June, 2008

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SYDNEY: Former Australian prime minister John Howard Monday defended his decision to send troops into Iraq as the new centre-left government pulled them out, honouring an election pledge.

"I firmly believe it was the right thing to have done," said Howard, one of US President George W. Bush`s staunch supporters in the "coalition of the willing" which invaded Iraq in March 2003.

Howard acknowledged, however, that the cost of the war had been "very, very heavy and much greater than anybody would have liked," the local news paper reported.

The former leader, ousted by Labor Party leader Kevin Rudd last November in elections in which Iraq war policy was a key point of difference, said if he had held on to power the troops would have stayed in Iraq.

"If I had been returned at the last election we would not have been bringing (troops) home, we would have been looking at transitioning them from their soon-to-be-terminated role to a training role."


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