Tuesday, January 31, 2006


"The about 600 soldiers, who are on a humanitarian mission in Samawa, southern Iraq, would start withdrawing in March,

"The troops, who are banned from using their weapons under Japan's pacifist constitution, have suffered no casualties during their humanitarian assistance mission."

But that doesn't mean the Australian troops guarding the Japanese engineers will be going anywhere, anytime soon.

The new Australian Defence Minister, Brendan Nelson, has said Australia would merely "review" it's troop commitment.

"If we are formally informed by the Japanese government that it intends to withdraw its engineers from southern Iraq, the Australian Government will then review the commitment that we have with our troops in that area," Mr Nelson said.

But that doesn't mean Australian troops will be 'cutting and running'.

Like the Americans, Australia is in the Iraq War for the long haul.

"We are determined to do the right thing. We are determined to see it through," Defence Minister Nelson said.

Brendan Nelson replaced Robert Hill as Defence Minister last week after Mr Hill quit his department for no apparent reason.

Suprisingly, Hill didn't fall back on the old standard line politicians use when they are forced to bolt under pressure (or out of fear of impending criminal charges), the line that goes "I only decided to quit politics to spend more time with my family".