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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 April, 2004, 11:17 GMT 12:17 UK
Howard unbowed by Iraq threats
John Howard
Mr Howard is standing firm over Iraq
Australian Prime Minister John Howard has said his country's troops will remain in Iraq.

He was speaking after a spokesman for radical cleric Moqtada Sadr said Australians were kidnap targets because of their troops' role in the country.

Spain and Honduras have already announced the withdrawal of their troops from Iraq, as the security situation continues to deteriorate.

But Mr Howard said he would not think about leaving "until the job is done".

Other Asian countries, including Japan, South Korea and the Philippines, have also restated their determination to remain in Iraq.

But Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said he was reconsidering his country's presence there.

"The safety of Thai troops in Iraq is my first priority, followed by their humanitarian mission," he said.

"We do not go there to fight. If we get killed why should we stay?"

Australians targeted

Radical Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr is leading an anti-US insurgency from the Iraqi city of Najaf.

His spokesman told Australia's ABC radio: "We have knowledge and information of some who are trying to kidnap Australians and trying to kidnap Americans as well.

"As long as they are staying in Iraq they are definitely a target," he said.

Australian defence force chief General Peter Cosgrove admitted he was disturbed by the threat, and said he had warned the Australian commanding officer in Iraq.

But Mr Howard told ABC radio: "I don't believe many Australians would expect their government and their armed forces to succumb to that kind of threat."

"Of course Australians are at risk, many people are at risk. People whose countries didn't participate in the military operation in Iraq have been targeted," he said.

Mr Howard has already condemned Spain's withdrawal from Iraq, saying it will "give heart to those people who are trying to delay the emergence of a free and democratic Iraq".

Australia has about 850 troops in and around Iraq, down from 2,000 at the height of the US-led invasion last year.

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