Australia opposes Iraq policy reversal- Downer

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SINGAPORE, Nov 21 (Reuters) Australia's conservative government opposes a sudden policy reversal on Iraq as the war-torn country was showing signs of progress in the last six months, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said today.

The decision to invade Iraq is a highly contentious issue in Prime Minister John Howard tough battle to win re-election in a national poll on Saturday.

The centre-left Labor Party, which is far ahead of Howard's coalition in opinion polls, has promised to withdraw frontline troops from Iraq if elected, although it still supports Australia's deployment of about 1,000 troops in Afghanistan.

''It would be madness to change course dramatically on Iraq now, just as we are making so much progress,'' Alexander Downer told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of leaders of Southeast Asian nations in Singapore.

Downer said that the duration of how long Australian troops would stay in Iraq was based on conditions, not time, therefore it would be a mistake to pull them out when conditions are improving.

''Let's really keep building what we have achieved in the last six months,'' he said. ''It would be political stupidity to make a sudden and dramatic change of policy on Iraq now.'' Reuters SG DB1028

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