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Australia Prime Minister Visits Iraq

April 25, 2004

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) _ Amid tight security, Prime Minister John Howard paid a surprise visit Sunday to Australian troops in Iraq.

``The trip to Iraq is in recognition of the great sacrifice and contribution Australian personnel are making there in challenging conditions,″ Howard’s office said in a statement. ``They are following in the footsteps of countless other Australians who have served the nation in many parts of the globe.″

Howard’s visit was for a dawn ceremony at Baghdad International Airport to mark Anzac Day, Australia’s main veterans’ commemoration.

It was Howard’s trip to Iraq since he sent 2,000 troops to take part in last year’s invasion and then replaced them with 850 military personnel to help in reconstruction.

Anzac Day commemorates the involvement of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corp. in a World War I campaign on Turkey’s Gallipoli peninsula that began April 25, 1915.

A total of 1 million men fought in the nine-month campaign. The Allies recorded 55,000 killed, 10,000 missing and 21,000 dead of disease, mainly dysentery. Turkish casualties were estimated at 250,000.

Australian Broadcasting Corp. said Howard would spend a few hours in Baghdad and was not expected to leave the relative security of the airport. Howard’s office would not confirm how long he would spend in Iraq.

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