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Australia calls in favour from Washington
Posted: Tuesday, April 8, 2003

Al Jazeera Net

Staking its claim to a share of the post-war economic cake, Australia announced on Tuesday that it expected to play a role in the interim administration that the US plans to install in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

"We hope to play a modest but useful role," said the country's defence minister, Robert Ray.

Foreign minister Alexander Downer said that the country - an ally of the US in its armed campaign in Iraq - planned to play a role in reviving Iraq's agricultural sector.

Having returned from the US last weekend after talks with senior American officials including US secretary of state Colin Powell, Downer said Australia has proposed and expected to be given responsibility for assisting Iraq's agricultural sector.

Australian officials were said to be already working with the office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Affairs in Washington and Kuwait, set up by the US military, in preparation of the Australian involvement in Iraq's post-war reconstruction.

Australia has sent a small batch of troops to fight alongside US and British troops in Iraq.

Downer said that Australian proposals for a role in Iraq has been warmly received by the US.

"I do not want to give an impression that Australia will necessarily be playing a key role, though its possible in the area of agriculture," the minister explained.

Iraq, one of Australia's biggest wheat importers, cut its imports by almost one half last December as a response to Canberra's support of the US on Iraq.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard is expected to travel to Washington after the war ends to discuss post war issues with US president, George Bush.

Al Jazeera Net with agencies.

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