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Australia ends Iraq combat operations

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080601/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq_australia Australia ends Iraq combat operations By TANALEE SMITH, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 21
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 1, 2008
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080601/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq_australia

      Australia ends Iraq combat operations

      By TANALEE SMITH, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 21
      minutes ago

      SYDNEY, Australia - Australia, a staunch U.S. ally and
      one of the first countries to commit troops to the
      Iraq war five years ago, ended combat operations there
      Sunday, a Defense Department official said.

      Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was swept into
      office in November largely on the promise that he
      would bring home the country's 550 combat troops by
      the middle of 2008.

      Rudd has said the Iraq deployment has made Australia
      more of a target for terrorism.

      The combat troops are expected to return home over the
      next few weeks. Local media reports said the first of
      the soldiers had already landed in Australia on Sunday
      afternoon.

      "Our soldiers have worked tirelessly to ensure that
      local people in southern Iraq have the best possible
      chance to move on from their suffering under Saddam's
      regime and, as a government we are extremely proud of
      their service," Defense Minister Joel Fitzgibbon said.

      Several hundred other troops will remain in Iraq to
      act as security and headquarters liaisons and to guard
      diplomats. Australia will also leave behind two
      maritime surveillance aircraft and a warship to help
      patrol oil platforms in the Gulf.

      The troops on Sunday held a ceremony that included
      lowering the Australian flag from its position over
      Camp Terendak in the southern Iraq city of Talil, the
      official said, speaking on condition of anonymity as
      required by the Defense Department.

      The soldiers, as well as 65 army trainers, were
      stationed at Talil, about 185 miles south of Baghdad,
      and were responsible for providing security training
      for Iraqi forces, as well as reconstruction and aid
      work. They have been on standby to offer backup to
      Iraqi forces in the south for the past two years.

      In February, the head of Australia's defense force,
      Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, told a Senate inquiry
      that the troops were no longer needed in Iraq.

      Rudd remains committed to keeping Australia's 1,000
      troops in Afghanistan.
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