Australian Premier Defends Remark On Obama, Terror

Associated Press
Tuesday, February 13, 2007

SYDNEY, Feb. 12 -- Australian Prime Minister John Howard on Monday denied having a political motive when he said that terrorists in Iraq should be praying for Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) to become president of the United States.

Howard, a supporter of President Bush in the Iraq war, insisted his criticism of Obama was in Australia's national interest because Obama's plan to withdraw U.S. combat troops in Iraq by March 31, 2008, would represent a defeat for Australia's most important military ally.

In an interview Sunday, Howard said that Obama's plan meant al-Qaeda leaders in Iraq should "be praying as many times as possible for a victory, not only for Obama but also for the Democrats" in presidential elections in November 2008.

In Iowa on Sunday, Obama responded by saying he was flattered that one of Bush's close allies had chosen to single him out for attack. He challenged Howard, noting that the United States has nearly 140,000 troops in Iraq, compared with 1,400 Australian troops. "So if he is ginned up to fight the good fight in Iraq, I would suggest that he calls up another 20,000 Australians and sends them to Iraq," Obama said.

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