Bush slams Latham’s Iraq plan

President Bush said such a move would be disastrous, hurting those who want freedom in Iraq, and encourage more violent attacks.

The comments came after a visit by Prime Minister John Howard to the White House where the two leaders discussed the imminent handover of power in Iraq on July 1st.

“It would say that the Australian government doesn’t see the hope of a free and democratic society (in Iraq) leading to a peaceful world,” Mr Bush told reporters.

“It would embolden the enemy who believe that they can shake our will,” he added.

In his meeting with the US President, Mr Howard informed him that the Howard government remained committed to keeping Australia’s 850 troops in Iraq as long as they were needed.

“It is the worst time imaginable for allies to be showing any weakness in relation to the pursuit of our goals in Iraq,” Mr Howard said.

Mr Latham has issued a statement saying he stood by his promise, and that he had been opposed to the Australian deployment in the first place.

While in Washington, Prime Minister Howard received an assurance from Mr Bush that the two Australian nationals being held by the US military at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, “are not only being treated fairly, but their cases (will be) brought to finality.”

David Hicks, 28, and Mamdouh Habib, 48, have been in detention for more than two years following their capture by US forces during the war on terror in Afghanistan.

A military investigation into the treatment of the two Australian detainees began earlier this week after complaints from their lawyers prompted a request from Canberra.

President Bush has departed for Europe buoyed by the Australian PM’s support ahead of what are expected to be tough talks to win the backing of French and German leaders.

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