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Australia Unveils New Foriegn Policy Objectives - 2003-02-12

Australia has unveiled its new foreign policy objectives, which warn that its citizens have become targets for international terrorism. The policy says the country's participation in the war against terrorism and closer cooperation with its Asian neighbors are key to long-term security.

The new policy says Australia has become a terrorist target and says efforts to defeat extremists are vital to the country's long-term security. According to the policy released Wednesday, radical Islamist groups are the biggest concern in the fight against terrorism.

Australia plans to defend itself against this threat by building on regional anti-terror agreements and fighting trans-national crime and people smuggling. The foreign policy blueprint also indicates that Australia wants to soothe relations with its Asian neighbors, but at the same time maintain its close ties with the United States.

Canberra's staunch support of President Bush's policy on Iraq has angered many of its neighbors - especially Malaysia - who accuse the Australians of trying to act as the United States' deputy sheriff in the region. Washington is threatening to attack Iraq to force it to comply with United Nations resolutions requiring it to disarm.

The new policy updates one drawn up in 1997, and was drafted in the tense new international climate after the terrorist attacks on the United States in September 2001.

Its publication was delayed after leaks showed the updated blueprint placed the United States as Australia's most important bilateral relation. The leaks put further pressure on Australia's strained relations with Asia.

The final policy was delayed further by the bomb attacks on Bali last October, which killed almost 200 people - half of them Australian tourists. Muslim extremists are suspected of planting the devices.