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Two Johns on Withdrawal

As a follow up to the post below about the framing of news of the withdrawal of British soldiers from Iraq, here is the reaction from our coalition partners down under, led by Prime Minister John Howard:

"A reduction has been in the wind (a while), and the reason I understand Mr Blair will give is that conditions have stabilised in Basra.

"I don't think it follows from that that there should be a reduction in our 550. I mean you have got to maintain a critical mass and to do the job according to our defence advice, you need that."

Australia is, in fact, bolstering its contribution in Iraq, sending up to 70 more non-combat military trainers within coming months.

Defence Minister Brendan Nelson says the British move is a sign of progress in southern Iraq.

"Under no circumstances should anybody interpret the British (decision) ... as any kind of cut and run," he said.

Dr Nelson denied that the British policy was at odds with America's plan to send an extra 21,500 troops to Iraq, mainly to Baghdad.

"People ought to remember that 60 per cent of the violence comes from Baghdad and al-Anbar province, where al-Qaeda is particularly active," he told ABC Radio.

"The rest of Iraq is quite different".

Meanwhile, thousands of miles away another John, this one a Democratic Senator from Massachusetts and erstwhile presidential candidate, responded to the news this way:

"America's leading ally in Iraq has decided that a timetable for the phased redeployment of troops is the only responsible policy to help force Iraqis to stand up for Iraq. After years of touting Prime Minister Blair's resolve, the Administration should now pay attention to his new policy. This announcement makes it all the more inexplicable that the President and leading Republicans actually want to send more American troops into the middle of an Iraqi civil war."