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Australia Pledges Troops for War on Terror - 2001-10-25

Australian Prime Minister John Howard says the carnage of the September 11 attacks on the United States has taken terrorism to an unprecedented level. Mr. Howard says the world, including Australia, has a duty to respond to the attacks.

Prime Minister John Howard says passive indifference in the face of evil achieves nothing. He outlined his reasons for sending troops to help fight terrorism - saying that to do anything less than join the international coalition against terrorism "would be both strategically inept and morally indefensible."

Mr. Howard says the Australian troops would be "highly prized comrades" in the eyes of its coalition partners. He made the comments in an election campaign speech in Melbourne.

Australia, a staunch U.S. ally, has pledged more than 1,500 military personnel for the war on terrorism.

Mr. Howard is in the middle of a general election campaign, where his conservative coalition government is seeking a third-term in office. He is basing his campaign almost exclusively on the war on terrorism and border security, arguing that voters should stick with him at a time of global insecurity. His principle opponent, Labor Party leader Kim Beazley, supports the military deployment.

Mr. Howard's campaigning been based around visiting defense facilities and bidding farewell to soldiers and sailors leaving for the Gulf area and for peacekeeping duties in East Timor. Opinion polls show strong support for the war effort among voters.

Mr. Howard has said the task of destroying the terror network that committed the U.S. attacks would not be easy.