war with iraq say john howard

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    War with Iraq close says PM

    Prime Minister John Howard says Australia is now the closest it has been to war with Iraq.

    Iraq has announced it will agree to demands by United Nations weapons inspectors to destroy its Al Samoud 2 missile system.

    But the Prime Minister has told Southern Cross radio that is not enough to satisfy the UN Security Council resolutions calling for Iraq to disarm.

    "Whether they do or they don't, that doesn't represent total cooperation with the United Nations Security Council and they only do this when there's pressure," he said.

    Federal Treasurer Peter Costello has admitted the pre-deployment of troops to the Middle East will cost the Australian taxpayer hundreds of millions of dollars, even if war does not eventuate.

    Mr Costello has told Southern Cross Radio he cannot predict how much costs will rise if a war breaks out, because it will depend on the duration of the conflict.

    But he says Australian soldiers will be given funding priority and other budgetary demands will have to be put on hold.

    "We will have to be very careful in other areas of government expenditures because nobody is going to allow our troops to go off to the Middle East without proper and adequate support and funding," he said.


    Labor

    Meanwhile, the US Ambassador to Australia, Tom Schieffer, has conceded he was worried the Federal Opposition might be withdrawing support for the bilateral alliance.

    Labor leader Simon Crean summoned Tom Schieffer to his Canberra office last night to discuss a row over the ALP's Iraq policy.

    Labor MPs had strongly criticised the US and its President George W Bush, and Mr Schieffer was quoted as saying Labor had make a rank appeal to anti-Americanism.

    Mr Crean says he is now satisfied he has seen the last of any interference by the Ambassador in domestic politics.

    Mr Schieffer says he regrets that his comments were interpreted that way.

    "Our concern was the historical support of the Labor Party for the alliance and was that in danger and Simon Crean assures me that it's not," he said.

 
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