- The Washington Times - Friday, February 23, 2007

SYDNEY, Australia —Vice President Dick Cheney warned today that the United States and a key ally, Australia, “simply cannot indulge” thoughts of an early withdrawal from Iraq because it would spawn a new wave of global terror.

Mr. Cheney, on a two-day visit to a staunch U.S. ally, praised Prime Minister John Howard’s firm support of the U.S.-led war and its fight against terror, saying the only option for survival was to fight back ferociously.

“The notion that free countries can turn our backs on what happens in places like Afghanistan, Iraq or any other possible safe haven for terrorists is an option we simply cannot indulge,” Mr. Cheney said in Sydney.

“We are determined to prevail in Iraq because we understand the consequences of failure. If our coalition withdrew before Iraqis could defend themselves, radical factions would battle for dominance over the country,” he said.

Ahead of Mr. Cheney’s Sydney visit today, anti-war demonstrators scuffled with police.

Mr. Cheney arrived with assurances for Mr. Howard in the face of mounting domestic criticism of the Iraq war.

Opposition leader Kevin Rudd, meanwhile, seized on Britain’s decision to reduce its troop presence in southern Iraq, arguing that Australia should follow suit.

Hours before Mr. Cheney’s plane touched down in Sydney last night, about 250 demonstrators defied a police ban to march through the city center to the Sydney Town Hall.

Authorities made at least 10 arrests when the demonstrators set out for the U.S. Consulate chanting: “Troops out now,” “Jail Cheney,” and “Free David Hicks” — a reference to the Australian who has been languishing in the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since his capture in Afghanistan five years ago.

Hundreds of police are involved in a security operation that has locked down access to several areas of Sydney, where Mr. Cheney will stay before departing Sunday.

Mr. Cheney’s visit comes at a testing time for Mr. Howard’s Liberal-National coalition government, which faces a national election later this year.

The latest public-opinion survey, a Newspoll published Tuesday, has Labor Party leader Mr. Rudd ahead of Mr. Howard as preferred prime minister by 47 percent to 37 percent.

Mr. Howard has ruled out following Britain and Denmark in withdrawing forces from Iraq and has been at pains to stress that there are still 10 times the number of British troops remaining in Iraq than those from Australia — with the U.S. commitment even greater.

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