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April 5, 2003
 
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Australia Says Iraq War Not About to End Soon

Reuters


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April 5

SYDNEY (Reuters) - U.S.-led forces may have scored notable battlefield successes in Iraq and entered Baghdad but the war was not yet close to an end, Australian Prime Minister John Howard said on Sunday.

"It's gone very well and the Iraqis do not appear to be putting up any systematic, orthodox military resistance," Howard told Australian television. "That doesn't mean, though, that it's going to be over shortly. It could still go on for some time.

"It would be foolish for people to start talking about the end right now," he said.

Australia, a staunch ally of Washington, has sent a 2,000-strong force including elite SAS troops, fighter jets and warships to the Gulf to join U.S. and British military forces.

Howard said the 17-day Iraq war had progressed better than the 1991 Gulf War and other conflicts such as Afghanistan and Kosovo.

"It's going well, better than really we had a right to expect, given that you're talking about the liberation of an entire country that has a very tightly held regime," Howard said.

"Certainly I have been surprised, and many people have been surprised, at the absence of orthodox military resistance by the Iraqis," he said.

But he added: "It could mean that there are some nasty surprises in store. I don't want to predict a final time. I really don't." Howard added victory did not depend on bringing President Saddam Hussein to justice, but merely changing the regime.

He said he did not know whether Saddam was still alive, despite television footage of him on the streets of Baghdad, but added the Iraqi president was becoming increasingly irrelevant.

"It would be very good to see him brought to justice in whatever form might be appropriate, but certainly, getting rid of the regime and thereby ensuring that Iraq does not retain chemical and biological weapons or a capacity to develop them in the future, that is the goal," Howard said.

Copyright 2003 Reuters News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
 
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