Australia troops to stay till Iraq `terrorists defeated`
Baghdad, March 17: Prime Ministers Nuri al-Maliki of Iraq and John Howard of Australia refused on Saturday to set a timetable for the withdrawal of Australian troops, vowing they will stay until "terrorists are defeated".
"I do not want to put a timeline" on Australian troop withdrawal, Maliki said during a press conference with his counterpart whose unannounced visit to Baghdad was his third trip to the war-ravaged country.
"There has been some progress but we still wish the Australians to remain until we have completely defeated the terrorists," Maliki said.
Howard -- along with Britain's Tony Blair, one of US President George W Bush's strongest allies -- shared Maliki's view, saying: "We have made progress but there is still work to be done.
"I told the Prime Minister that Australia will continue its presence in Iraq to assist in bringing about a situation where the Iraqi people are reasonably able to provide for their own future and for their own security," Howard said.
"We both agreed that the future lies in collaboration between improved security and reconciliation in the political process."
Howard also met some of the 1,450 Australian troops serving in Iraq near Baghdad Airport shortly after his arrival and before holding talks with Maliki.
"We had very effective and detailed talks today on developments in the political process and the achievements of the Baghdad conference. We fully appreciate the Australian support in the fight against terrorism," Maliki said.