Australia won't give in to kidnappers in Iraq: Howard
Australian Prime Minister John Howard said he had been dreading the day an Australian was taken hostage in Iraq, but insisting that Australiawon't give in to the kidnappers.
Sixty three-year-old Douglas Wood, an Australian citizen who has been living in the United States since 1992, has been taken hostage while working as a contractor with the US military in the war-torn Middle East country.
A videotape delivered to news agencies earlier in the day has the words Shura Council of the Mujahedden of Iraq, which has previously claimed responsibility for attacks on US soldiers and Iraqi forces and another kidnapping, burned into the top left-hand corner.
Wood pleaded for his life on the tape and begged for withdrawal of US, Australian and British troops from Iraq.
Speaking to Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio, Howard said he had been dreading the day an Australian was taken hostage in Iraq, adding "I feel total responsibility for any harm that comes to anybody as a result of the decisions that the government has taken."
But he insisted that Australia won't give in to the kidnappers, saying "Everybody knows the position of the Australian government in relation to hostage demands."
"We'll continue to do all we can consistent with our position on not giving in to hostage-takers and we can't alter that position and we won't alter that position," he said.
"We can't have the foreign policy of this country dictated by terrorists," he said.
However, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said a Department of Foreign Affairs emergency response team was preparing to head for Iraq to do what it could to secure Wood's release.
Australia, a staunch ally of the United States on the war of Iraq, sent
2,000-strong troops to join the US-led "coalition of the willing" that invaded
Iraq in March, 2003. It now maintains about 1,000 troops in the Middle