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Australia: No more troops for Iraq

Australia's troop presence in Iraq did not emerge as a key election issue.
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John Howard

SYDNEY, Australia (CNN) -- Australia will not dispatch additional troops to Iraq despite a U.N. request for more manpower for the country's elections, scheduled for January, a foreign ministry spokesman said Monday.

"We're supporting the U.N. presence in Iraq by providing equipment and training for the Fijian contingent," spokesman Chris Kenny said.

But Australia would not add to the 850 non-combat troops it already had in the region, he said.

The United Nations has promised to help administer the January vote, but the world body withdrew most international staff from Baghdad in 2003 after a suicide car bombing that killed its top envoy and more than 20 others.

Interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi has said that Iraq will hold elections on schedule by the end of January despite ongoing violence as U.S.-led troops and his security forces battle a persistent insurgency.

The U.N. Security Council resolution that recognized the interim government in June called on member nations to contribute troops to provide security for U.N. staff in Iraq, but few countries have agreed to commit forces.

Newly re-elected Prime Minister John Howard has said consistently that Australia would not send extra troops to Iraq, after having made a vital contribution at the "sharp end" of the war in March-April of 2003.

The government's position is that the current deployment of soldiers will remain in Iraq for as long as necessary.

Australia sent around 2,000 troops, a squadron of fighter aircraft and naval vessels to the initial invasion of Iraq but those numbers were reduced once the major combat operations were over.

Labor opposition leader Mark Latham promised to bring the remaining troops home from Iraq by the end of the year if elected, but the military presence did not emerge as a major election issue.

CNN's Grant Holloway contributed to this story.

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