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Rumsfeld: Australia 'Steadfast Ally' in Anti-Terror War

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 29, 2002 – Australia is a steadfast, valued ally that's united with the United States in the war on global terrorism, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said here today.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer (from left), U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Australian Defense Minister Robert Hill brief reporters Oct. 29, 2002, at a State Department press conference. U.S. and Australian leaders discussed mutual security issues at their annual bilateral meeting, held this year in Washington. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore.
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Senior Australian defense officials were in Washington to attend this year's annual defense meetings between their nation and the United States. Last year's meeting was held in Canberra, Australia.

Rumsfeld spoke to reporters at a State Department press conference along with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, and Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and Defense Minister Robert Hill.

"We've had excellent discussions on the war on terrorism and the situation in Asia, more broadly, the security environment there," the U.S. defense secretary noted.

Australia "was one of the first countries to join with us" after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States, Rumsfeld remarked. Australian troops "fought shoulder-to-shoulder" with U.S. forces in Afghanistan and played an important role in ejecting the Taliban and al Qaeda from their former haven, he noted.

In February, an Australian, Sgt. Andrew Russell, was the first non-American killed in Afghanistan, Rumsfeld said, noting that Australia "has demonstrated a clear commitment to combating the evils of terrorism."

Rumsfeld praised Australia as "a steadfast and dependable ally and friend" of the United States of many decades.

On Oct. 12, 46 Australians and four Americans died in a suspected terrorist bombing in Bali, Indonesia. Reports note that almost 200 people from more than a dozen nationalities are feared dead in that attack.

"The terrible experience at Bali has only reinforced our determination to defeat this scourge of terror, no matter where it may be," Australian Defense Minister Hill noted, adding that the Bali attack emphasizes the global nature of the terrorism threat.

Considerable discussion during meetings yesterday and today was devoted to how America and Australia can work even more effectively in the future than they do now in terms of coalitions, interoperability and other matters, he added.

The annual U.S.-Australian defense ministerial meetings reinforce the strong ties between the two nations, Powell said. Those ties, he emphasized, have never been stronger, especially since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

"Australia has stood with us in the global campaign against terror," Powell said, noting the Bali attack, which killed so many Australians, "has only steeled our shared resolve" to defeat terrorism.

U.S.-Australian discussions at this year's defense meetings covered a range of issues from Southeast Asia to Iraq, regional security to missile defense, and the global war on terrorism, Powell said. Current political and economic challenges in Indonesia, he noted, "will be of vital importance to both our countries and to the region."

The United States and Australia also seek a prompt and visible dismantling of North Korea's program to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons, Powell said.

He also cited U.S.-Australian agreement on the need for Iraq to abandon its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, and that "action must be taken if Iraq does not do so in response to the international community."

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