Cheney: Failure in Iraq will fuel terrorism worldwide

Updated: 2007-02-23 09:54

SYDNEY, Australia -- US Vice President Dick Cheney reaffirmed Washington's commitment to winning in Iraq, warning during a visit Friday to close ally Australia that the alternative would give terrorists "a taste of victory" that would fuel terrorism worldwide.

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"We are determined to prevail in Iraq because we understand the consequences of failure," Cheney said in a speech on the first full day of a three-day visit.

If the US-led coalition leaves Iraq before domestic forces can handle security, radical factions would battle for control and the violence would spread throughout the country and be difficult to contain, he said.

"Having tasted victory in Iraq, jihadists would look for new missions," joining the Taliban fighting in Afghanistan and spreading "sorrow and discord" across the Middle East and further afield, he said.

"Such chaos and mounting danger does not have to occur, it is however the enemy's objective," Cheney said. "For the sake of our own long-term security, we have a duty to stand in their way."

Cheney praised Prime Minister John Howard, who sent 2,000 troops to join the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, saying Australians had won the respect of the world through their support of the fight against terror.

Outside the venue of the speech, anti-war protesters waved placards saying "Go home Cheney" and "Bring the troops home." Three people were arrested as police clashed with about 50 demonstrators. Ten people were arrested at a similar demonstration shortly before Cheney arrived in Australia late Thursday.

Cheney was due to hold talks Saturday with Howard, a staunch ally of Washington who has become a rarity by offering more, not fewer, troops for Iraq and Afghanistan.

Iraq, Afghanistan and North Korea are expected to dominate the talks with Howard, who is under increasing political pressure to set an exit strategy for the 1,400 Australian troops who remain in and around Iraq.

The focus intensified Wednesday when the British government and other allies announced plans to start withdrawing forces from Iraq, leaving Howard to explain why he is not doing the same.

Earlier this week, Howard said Australia would send another 70 military trainers to Iraq. On Thursday, Howard said Australia was also considering increasing its contingent of 500 troops in Afghanistan. The Australian newspaper reported the Cabinet had given initial approval for up to 450 more troops.

Among the protesters in Sydney on Friday was former Guantanamo Bay detainee Mamdouh Habib, who called for the release of the lone Australian still held at the US naval base at Cuba, David Hicks.

A group of three men held a counter-protest nearby with a banner reading: "The world needs more men like Dick Cheney - we love America."

Cheney and Howard are expected to discuss Hicks, a former kangaroo skinner captured in Afghanistan who has been locked up without trial at Guantanamo Bay for more than five years.

Under growing public pressure, and with Hicks looming as an issue at elections due later this year, Howard has begun pushing US officials to deal with Hicks' case more quickly.

US prosecutors say Hicks is likely to be formally charged with terrorism offenses within weeks, and a military commission is likely to be established within months to try him.

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