Australian Prime Minister John Howard says a hasty pullout of foreign troops from Iraq would represent a defeat for the West.

In an interview on Australian television, Mr. Howard says such a defeat would undermine Australia's security and the authority of the United States as a world superpower. He says anyone who believes withdrawing from Iraq will strengthen the West "has taken leave of their senses".

Australia has about 1,300 troops in Iraq as part of the U.S.-led coalition. Mr. Howard warned against pulling Australian troops out while other coalition forces remain. He says doing so would cause long-term damage to Australia's alliance with the U.S.

Mr. Howard reiterated his support for the U.S. position that foreign forces should only leave Iraq when the Iraqis can look after security themselves.