Opposition denies Iraq troop divide

The Government says the plan is at odds with other Labor positions on the issue, including Mr Rudd’s appeal last year to provide trainers for Iraq’s new police and military.

But Mr Rudd says that training could have been provided within a year and without increasing the overall size of Australia’s contingent in Iraq.

And he has rejected suggestions the Labor leader’s promise to withdraw the troops by December was made without consulting his senior colleagues.

He says he had already made several statements about the importance of establishing an interim Iraqi government as an important step in developing an exit strategy for Australian troops.

Mr Rudd also says Mr Latham’s statement is fully supported by Labor’s national-security subcommittee.

But the Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, says Labor does not know what its policy on Iraq is.

“The policy chaos that we are getting from the Labor Party here might be amusing for the parliament, but it is not amusing for the national interest. Because this gets to the heart of the credibility of the leader of the Opposition and the capacity of somebody in that position to become the prime minister of this country and be responsible for the security of this nation.”

The prime minister, John Howard, says he will move a motion in parliament today calling for no timeframe to be set for withdrawing troops from Iraq.

“This is not the time to cut and run. This is the time to stand firm with out allies and our friends. This is not a time for capricious policy-making on the run which is plainly against the interests of the people of Iraq. It’s against the interests of Australia. It gives comfort and encouragement to terrorists and is a thoroughly bad policy all around.”

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