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Australian leader one of few to stick with Iraq coalition
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON — President Bush laid out all the trappings Tuesday for visiting Australian Prime Minister John Howard: the marching bands and troop review on the South Lawn, Australian flags along Pennsylvania Avenue, meetings at the White House, a black-tie dinner in the State Dining Room.
When it comes to Bush's "coalition of the willing" partners, Howard is virtually the last man standing. For one reason or another, Bush's best friends from the start of the Iraq war in 2003 are dropping off one after the other. Spain's prime minister, José María Aznar, was ousted in 2004 by voters upset in part by troop deployments in Iraq. The prime minister of Portugal, who stood next to Bush days before the invasion, resigned months later.
The leaders of Poland and Ukraine, which had sizable units in Iraq, were replaced in elections by successors who pulled out some or all troops. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, perhaps Bush's strongest supporter in continental Europe, lost re-election last month. Japan Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi plans to step down in September. And even British Prime Minister Tony Blair appears poised to resign next year.
"The people who supported the president, particularly on Iraq, in almost every case were doing so against their domestic public opinion, and they paid a price," said James Steinberg, deputy national-security adviser under President Clinton and now dean of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, Austin.
It also has sapped the coalition in Iraq, leaving fewer partners for U.S. forces struggling to quell an insurgency. Overall, the foreign contingent in Iraq is down to 20,000 from a peak of 25,000, with more leaving soon. Just last week, South Korea began pulling out the first of 1,000 troops set to withdraw from its 3,200-member force by the end of the year.
Italy, the third-largest partner behind Britain and South Korea, plans to pull out all 2,900 remaining troops by year's end under newly elected Romano Prodi, who opposed the war. Even Australia, which contributed 2,000 troops to the assault on Iraq, today has just 900. Washington counts 28 remaining members of the coalition, but that includes countries such as Albania, which according to the U.S. Central Command Web site has contributed "one officer and one noncommissioned officer."
36 killed: Escalating violence across Iraq left at least 36 people dead Tuesday.
Envoy kidnapped: Police said a United Arab Emirates diplomat was kidnapped in Baghdad late Tuesday.
Additional information from The Associated Press
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