Keelty vows to stay on

Mr Keelty has refused to comment on reports that he was close to quitting over political pressure exerted after he publicly expressed the view that involvement in the Iraq war had raised Australia’s profile as a terrorist target.

Mr Keelty, attending a meeting in Sydney of senior federal and state officials to discuss security issues, would not elaborate on the spat with the government, saying he wants to put this week behind him.

He says he remains committed to dealing with the issue of terrorism and has confidence in his fellow police commissioners.

“I think the real issue is do you have before you a group of commissioners who are professional? And I think you have, people who will be committed to being apolitical, which is important for commissioners, and people who will tell the truth.

“And I have every confidence in everyone that’s in this room that we will be doing that.”

The federal Opposition leader, Mark Latham, says Government criticism of Mick Keelty over his remarks on the terrorist threat to Australia have hurt national security.

The Australian newspaper reports the Prime Minister’s Office pressured Mr Keelty to back off his comments, and Mr Latham says that is no good.

He says the police have got to do their job without fear or favour, and political interference weakens Australia’s national security.

John Howard is not saying whether his office pressured Mr Keelty to issue a clarification of his remarks.

Mr Howard says Mr Keelty’s subsequent statement, in which he said his comments had been taken out of context, speaks for itself.

But when it was suggested people had a right to know if a political office pressured a law officer’s office, Mr Howard was quick to say nothing improper happened.

Mr Keelty’s view on Iraq has been widely supported by other security professionals including other police chiefs, terrorism experts and a senior officer of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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