Oz firm on Afghan mission despite deaths: PM

Oz PM says sending troops to Afghanistan remained an important mission for civilised nations.

Sydney: Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd
on Tuesday said sending troops to Afghanistan remained an important
mission for civilised nations, after 10 NATO soldiers died in
the alliance`s deadliest day this year.

Two Australians killed by a roadside bomb during a patrol
in the restive southern province of Uruzgan were among the 10
foreign soldiers who died in a rash of attacks yesterday.

"This has a been a hard day, a difficult day for so many
of our people in uniform and those in uniform from other
lands," Rudd said.

"There are families grieving today all around the world."
"But the mission... is an important mission for all
civilised countries."

Seven American troops also died yesterday in two bomb
blasts and a small arms attack, while a French soldier was
killed by a rocket attack, making it one of NATO`s deadliest
days of the nine-year conflict.

Australia has about 1,550 troops in Uruzgan, making it
the 10th biggest contributor to NATO`s International Security
Assistance Force (ISAF).

Rudd, who has called the war "unpopular", sent 450
reinforcements last year but has resisted Washington`s calls
to provide more and today repeated his stance that Canberra`s
commitment "is about right".

"We have never extended a blank cheque when it comes to
our troop commitment," he told reporters in Sydney.

The Prime Minister said there were indications that
Australian forces were making progress in the former Taliban
heartland of Uruzgan, where they are mentoring Afghan National
Army soldiers.


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