Rumsfeld ‘champion of freedom’

Defence Minister Brendan Nelson made the commitment shortly after US
President George W. Bush sacrificed Mr Rumsfeld when mid-term elections revealed the depth of voter anger over the war in Iraq.

“Mr Rumsfeld has a long and distinguished record of service to his country,” Mr Nelson said in a statement.

“He has been a true champion of freedom. I greatly appreciated working with him. Equally, I look forward to working with his successor.

“The government remains committed to supporting the people of Iraq and their democratically elected government against the insurgents and terrorists working to destroy that democracy.

Mr Nelson said Australia would continue to work with allies and the Iraqi security forces until Iraq could handle its own security.

Prime Minister John Howard, a close ally of Washington, has repeatedly rejected opposition calls for Australian troops to be withdrawn from Iraq, saying the country would not “cut and run”.

‘Wake up call’: Allison

The Australian Democrats have said the US mid-term election results were a wake-up call for the Howard government.

“President Bush’s monumental loss of power should send shockwaves into coalition ranks,” Democrats leader Lyn Allison said in a statement today.

The results, Senator Allison says, are good for world peace and global co-operation on climate change.

She hopes it will prompt Prime Minister John Howard to sign the Kyoto protocol and pull Australian troops out of the Middle East.

“I hope this sends a strong message to Mr Howard that the excesses of an arrogant government and aggressive, divisive policies and rhetoric will eventually be punished at the voting box,” she said.

“The American people have restored our faith in democracy and hopefully taught George Bush a lesson.”

Meanwhile federal Labor Leader Kim Beazley says the results of the US mid-term elections prove voters are angry about the Iraq war.

“The message is that the American people want George Bush to change course in Iraq,” Mr Beazley told ABC Radio in Brisbane today.

“That’s the clear cut message and that’s also the message today from the resignation of the secretary of defence, Donald Rumsfeld, who in the new congress would’ve been like a lightning rod for all the anguish that there is in the US congress and amongst the US people about the conflict there.”

Mr Beazley said he was “depressed” by Prime Minister John Howard’s comments that he felt sorry for Mr Bush.

“He (Mr Howard) knows very well that the sentiment that is there strongly in the United States, is here too,” Mr Beazley said.