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UK & Aust. Defence Ministers Meet In London

Defence Ministers Meet In London

Australian Defence Minister Robert Hill met with his UK counterpart the Secretary of State for Defence John Reid in London today to discuss key issues including military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Ministers discussed Australia’s recent deployment of a Special Forces Task Group to Afghanistan, and the possibility of a further deployment of an Australian Provincial Reconstruction Team.

"The United Kingdom continues to play a key role within the International Stabilisation and Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, and I appreciated Dr Reid’s views on the security situation and future prospects within that country," Senator Hill said.

"ISAF, under the leadership of NATO, has been extending its reconstruction efforts through the country, providing a number of different deployment options for Australia to consider.

"The British are leading the reconstruction effort in the north of Afghanistan and it was important to discuss options concerning where an Australian PRT would be most valuable if a decision is made to deploy a team in the New Year.

"Later this year the Government will decide whether to send a PRT involving up to 200 personnel to help the international reconstruction effort rebuild the Afghan. This deployment would be in addition to a Special Forces Task Group that has already been deployed for one year."

As part of today’s meeting the Ministers also discussed operations in Iraq, particularly the progress being made in training Iraqi Security Forces in the southern Al Muthanna Province.

"Australia’s Al Muthanna Task Group provides security for the Japanese engineering deployment, and training for the Iraqi security forces. As part of this deployment, Australia works within the UK Multi National Division South-East."

Senator Hill said good progress is being made in the training task.

"It is hoped that the Iraqi Security Force will be able to accept responsibility for security in the Province in the New Year," Senator Hill said.

Following the meeting with Dr Reid, Senator and Mrs Hill represented Australia at the Battle of Britain commemorative service at Westminster Abbey, and the unveiling of the Battle of Britain Monument by HRH the Prince of Wales.

"With Australian forces once again serving with their UK counterparts in Iraq and Afghanistan, it was timely to remember the sacrifice of ‘the Few’ during those momentous months in October 1940," Senator Hill said.

"Of the 1495 RAF Fighter Command pilots involved in the defence of Britain, between 25 and 35 were Australians. These pilots, some as young as 19, were involved in the fierce battle in which 78 German aircraft were destroyed."

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