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Last Updated: Sunday, 25 April, 2004, 04:43 GMT 05:43 UK
Australia PM visits Iraq troops
John Howard
Howard paid tribute to Australian troops
Australian Prime Minister John Howard has made a surprise visit to his country's troops in Iraq.

He took part in a dawn ceremony at Baghdad airport, marking Anzac Day, when Australia honours its war dead.

Australia sent an initial force of 2,000 troops to serve in Iraq, but over half of those have now been withdrawn.

Mr Howard said Australians serving in Iraq were "following in the footsteps of countless other Australians who have served the nation".

Last week he said that Australian military personnel would stay in Iraq "until the job is done," after a spokesman for radical cleric Moqtada Sadr said Australians were kidnap targets because of their troops' role in the country.

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

He also condemned the withdrawal of Spanish troops, saying it will "give heart to those people who are trying to delay the emergence of a free and democratic Iraq".

Security fears

Thousands of Australians and New Zealanders have attended early morning services to mark the day 89 years ago when thousands of troops were killed as they stormed ashore on Turkey's Gallipoli peninsula.

The troops - Australian and New Zealand volunteer soldiers, known as Anzacs - were taking part in a World War I campaign to gain a foothold in Turkey.

But the landing was the start of a disastrous eight-month battle in which more than 100,000 men died.

Thousands more Australians and New Zealanders gathered at Anzac Cove on the Gallipoli peninsula itself, despite travel warnings that advised them to keep away for fear of terror attacks.

The BBC's Oliver Conway
"Mr Howard pledged to keep the troops there as long as it takes"

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