Australia's opposition Labor Party has backed away from its pledge to withdraw all troops from Iraq by Christmas, if it wins the upcoming general election.
Labor's foreign affairs spokesman, Keven Rudd, said today (Sunday) that a Labor government would keep some troops in Iraq, if needed to protect Australian diplomats.
He also said an Australian warship and surveillance aircraft would continue to patrol the Gulf.
In a radio interview today (Sunday), U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said move by Australia to withdraw its forces from Iraq would be, as he put it, "disastrous," but insisted the United States "will respect the decision."
John Howard's conservative government has been a strong supporter of the the U.S. - led coalition in Iraq.