Thursday, June 3, 2004

Australian Prime Minister John Howard yesterday voiced his support for President Bush’s leadership in Iraq and the war on terror and told fellow allies that this is the “worst time imaginable” to waver in their support of U.S. foreign policy.

Mr. Howard has been one of the president’s staunchest allies in the war in Iraq. In an appearance with Mr. Bush at the White House, he said his country is committed to helping form a democracy in Iraq and will keep its 800 troops in the country “until the job … has been completed.”

“This is not a time — it is the worst time imaginable — for allies to be showing any weakness in relation to the pursuit of our goals in Iraq,” Mr. Howard said. “And I express my strong support for the leadership that the president has continued to display, particularly through some of the more difficult aspects of recent weeks.

“If the democratic future of Iraq can be achieved, that will have beneficial consequences not only in Iraq, but it will also be a wonderful demonstration in the Middle East and around the world that democracy is not something which is confined to countries that have historically enjoyed it.”

Mr. Bush echoed that theme.

“A free Iraq rising in the heart of the Middle East will show the people of that region a clear alternative to the bitterness that feeds terror,” he said.

But yesterday, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry criticized Mr. Bush’s policy in Iraq, calling it a failure.

“We went into Iraq with too few troops to prevent looting and crime, and we failed to secure nearly a million tons of conventional weapons now being used against our troops,” Mr. Kerry said in a speech in Independence, Mo.

“We failed to build alliances and squandered the opportunity to generate wider support inside Iraq, in the Arab world and among the major powers,” Mr. Kerry said. “These mistakes have complicated our mission: a stable Iraq with a representative government secure in its borders.”

But Mr. Howard appeared to disagree, and told Mr. Bush that he shares his “aspirations for a free and democratic Iraq.” He also said his country’s support will not waver despite the fact that “in recent weeks the news out of Iraq has not been as positive as we would have liked.”

Mr. Howard also strongly implied that other traditional allies of the U.S. — especially France and Germany, which opposed the war, and Spain, which has withdrawn its troops from Iraq — are making a mistake by opposing Mr. Bush.

Mr. Bush left yesterday for a three-day trip to Europe to mark the 60th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion that began the liberation of the continent from the Axis powers in World War II.

In a commencement speech Wednesday at the Air Force Academy, Mr. Bush compared the war on terror to World War II, and hinted that he will continue to make this point in remarks in Normandy on Sunday.

The president will also meet with European leaders — political foes and friends alike — to bolster support for a United Nations resolution designed to support the transition of a new democratic government in Iraq.

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