December 5, 2007

Australia's prime minister is a free rider

The election of Australia's new government has brought tactical differences with the United States on Iraq and global warming, but the allies' underlying relationship remains strong. U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns held talks with Australia's deputy prime minister, defense and foreign ministers in the first meetings between a senior Washington official and the new government in Canberra.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd swept to power in Nov. 24 elections that ousted the more than 11-year rule of former leader John Howard, a staunch ally of Washington's war on terror, the Iraq invasion and America's refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on global warming. Rudd plans to scale down Australia's contribution in Iraq, without ending it altogether. While front-line troops will be withdrawn, hundreds of others will stay in supporting roles such as guarding the country's embassy. Rudd says he will not shrink Australia's 1,000-troop deployment to Afghanistan. On climate change, Rudd said he hoped Washington would follow his lead and sign the Kyoto pact.

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