Howard says the new functions will include training Iraqi forces, providing them with intelligence, and backing them up "in extreme cases through direct military action."
"[The Australian Defense Force's] new role will be higher risk," Howard said. "The government is keenly aware of the risks associated with this new mission, and will ensure that the ADF has the resources it needs to carry out its tasks as safely and effectively as possible."
Australia has some 900 troops in Iraq but the majority of them have been in noncombat roles.
Meanwhile, the Australian Defense Force (ADF) on June 21 confirmed that its troops mistakenly opened fire on the bodyguards of Iraq's trade minister in Baghdad, killing one of them and wounding three.
In a statement, the ADF said that it "deeply regrets" the death and injuries. The ADF says it is conducting an investigation into the shooting.
(AP, AFP, Reuters)
The International Coalition In Iraq
COALITION MEMBERS: In addition to the United States, 28 countries are Multi-National Force-Iraq (MNF-I) contributors as of May 31, 2006: Albania, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, Georgia, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Singapore, Slovakia, South Korea, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom. Fiji is participating as part of the UN mission in Iraq. Hungary, Iceland, Slovenia, and Turkey are NATO countries supporting Iraqi stability operations but are not part of MNF-I.
NON-U.S. MILITARY PERSONNEL IN IRAQ: United Kingdom, 8,000 as of May 26, 2006; South Korea, 3,237 as of May 9, 2006; Italy, 2,900 as of April 27, 2006; Poland, 900 as of May 30, 2006; Australia, 900 as of March 28, 2006; Georgia, 900 as of March 24, 2006; Romania, 860 as of April 27, 2006; Japan, 600 as of May 30, 2006; Denmark, 530 as of May 23, 2006; All others, 1,140.
(Source: The Washington-based Brooking Institution’s Iraq Index of June 15, 2006)
RADIO FREE IRAQ: To visit the Arab-language website of RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq, click here.