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Australia to Assist US, Britain in Bringing Democracy to Iraq - 2003-04-10

Australia's government will join the United States and Britain in helping build a new government for Iraq. The government has hailed the fall of Baghdad, but top officials warn the war is not yet over.

Prime Minister John Howard says his government will help bring democracy to Iraq. Mr. Howard said Thursday that the United States will lead an interim government in Baghdad, backed by its war allies, Britain and Australia.

He stressed, however, that the coalition partners have no desire to retain control over Iraqi territory for very long. He said they aim to turn authority over to the Iraqi people quickly "in a way that they choose."

Australian Defense Minister Robert Hill say there should be a global effort to rebuild Iraq. The country's economy has been battered by three wars in three decades, and years of economic sanction.

"We wouldn't play more than a modest role but we think the international community as a whole should now help the Iraqi people in this difficult challenge that lies ahead for them," he said.

Australia sent about 2,00 troops - mostly sailors, fighter pilots and Special Forces soldiers - to join the U.S. led effort to disarm Iraq and unseat the government of Saddam Hussein.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer says the war is not yet over, but that it is "wonderful to see people liberated from a dictator."

"It reminds me of other great events during my lifetime when dictatorships and oppressive regimes have been overthrown," Mr. Downer said.

Although the government faced strong public opposition for its support of the United States, in recent weeks, public opinion has in favor of the war. Analysts say that is partly because Australian forces suffered no combat casualties.

Iraqis living in Australia have expressed relief that Saddam Hussein has been deposed. One Iraqi community leader says the country will soon face another struggle - to convince the United States to withdraw and to hand back power to the Iraqi people quickly.