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Australia, U.S. sign sky marshals

Armed sky marshals will travel on Qantas flights to the United States.
United States
Air Transportation

SYDNEY, Australia (CNN) -- Australia and the United States have agreed to put armed marshals on passenger flights between the two countries.

The sky marshals could begin flying as early as next week on services operated by Qantas and United Airlines.

They already operate on Australian domestic flights and on services to Singapore.

Australia's Minister for Justice and Customs Chris Ellison and U.S. ambassador Thomas Schieffer announced the aviation security agreement at Perth airport in Western Australia Saturday.

Senator Ellison said the agreement with the United States was a significant step in airline security.

"This major security measure will build upon a long history of close cooperation between Australia and the United States in law enforcement, aviation security and counter-terrorism," he said.

Sky marshals began working on flights between Australia and Singapore in December 2003. Australian domestic flights have had the marshals since the end of 2001.

Australia is seeking to negotiate similar agreements on air marshals with the UK, Canada and some Asian countries.

A spokesman for Senator Ellison said the sky marshal program would be paid for from existing funds and would not need extra money in next week's Australian federal Budget, the Australian Associated Press reported

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