U.S. President George W. Bush has spoken of signs of progress in Iraq and the possibility of a troop reduction as staunch ally Australia pledged not to withdraw its soldiers.
At a joint news conference, Bush and Australian Prime Minister John Howard vigorously defended the war, talked about climate change, trade and China, as the annual meetings of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum got under way in
“Our commitment to Iraq remains. This is not the time for any proposals of a scaling down of Australian forces,” Howard told a joint news conference with Bush, pointing to next week’s progress report to the U.S. Congress on the American troop surge in Iraq.
Bush said his top Iraq commanders told him if “security conditions still improve the way they have been improving…we may be able to provide the same security with fewer troops”. As the pair talked, thousands of people took to the streets in cities across Australia to protest against the Iraq war.
Although climate change and trade liberalisation will top the agenda during the summit, Australia has launched the country’s biggest ever security operation for the Apec meetings as authorities say they expect violent demonstrations.