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Rudd angered by Gallipoli remarks

Troops landing at Anzac Cove in 1915 (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Australia became more fiercely nationalistic as a result of Gallipoli

A row has erupted between Australia's PM Kevin Rudd and his Labor predecessor Paul Keating over the importance of Gallipoli, a WWI battle site in Turkey.

Mr Keating dismissed as "nonsense" the view that a new Australian identity was forged in 1915 at Gallipoli, where 300,000 troops were killed or injured.

Mr Rudd disagreed saying: "It's part of our national psyche, it is part of our national identity."

Gallipoli is visited each year by thousands of Australians.

Many Australians regard the defeat of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzac) at Gallipoli as the birth of the nation - its first major military action.

We still go on as though the nation was born again or even was redeemed there - an utter and complete nonsense
Paul Keating
Former Australian Prime Minister

The operation was mounted to capture the Ottoman capital of Constantinople (Istanbul), and secure a sea route to Russia. The attempt failed with a heavy loss of life.

It is seen as a military disaster orchestrated by the British, and the legend grew that brave Australian soldiers had been betrayed by their incompetent former imperial masters.

Australia became more fiercely nationalistic as a result, says the BBC's Nick Bryant in Sydney.

Source of pride

Thousands travel each year to the grave yards of Anzac Cove to visit this most sacred of sites, but the former Labor Prime Minister Paul Keating says that visitors are misguided to do so.

He claims that the idea of Gallipoli forging the national identity is a myth, and there was no redeeming value in the loss of so many lives.

"Without seeking to simplify the then bonds of empire and the implicit sense of obligation, or to diminish the bravery of our own men, we still go on as though the nation was born again or even was redeemed there - an utter and complete nonsense.

"For these reasons, I have never been to Gallipoli and I never will," Mr Keating said.

Kevin Rudd has dismissed his predecessor's remarks.

He described the battles as a searing national experience - part of Australia's consciousness, its psyche and its identity.

He said that Mr Keating was "completely and utterly 100% wrong".

Mr Rudd said servicemen who risked their lives and lost their lives for Australia, no matter where, were a source of pride.

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