Canberra, Jan 9 (IANS) Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday reaffirmed his country’s military commitment in Iraq as well as the US-led international coalition’s fight against the Islamic State terrorist group.

“Our goal remains a united and stable Iraq and the focus of our efforts is encountering Daesh (IS). And its support network also,” Morrison told reporters, underlining Australia’s position in the wake of the recent missile attacks that have further escalated tensions in the region, Efe news reported.

Iran fired over a dozen missiles on two American military bases in Iraq on Wednesday in response to a US drone strike that killed Quds Force commander General Qasem Soleimani outside Baghdad’s international airport.

“We remain committed to carrying on this important work,” added Morrison, a day after Iran’s retaliation to the assassination of Soleimani, a key man in Tehran’s Middle East policy, by the US last week.

Morrison, who on Wednesday claimed that the bombings did not cause any injuries among Australian diplomatic personnel, said that he has discussed the situation in Iraq with his counterparts from Canada and New Zealand, Justin Trudeau and Jacinda Ardern, respectively.

“We remain together and working together to ensure not only the safety of our own people, but to also ensure that we are in a position to continue to build a stronger Iraq,” said the prime minister.

Australia has deployed 300 military personnel in the fight against IS in Iraq and Syria through Operation Okra, which also includes New Zealand, and is involved in training, assistance and consulting operations.

Australia, a US ally, has supported all of its military initiatives in the Middle East, the last and most important of them in the fight against the Islamic State terrorist group.

Canberra has also supported Operation Sentinel led by Washington to protect ships in the Persian Gulf in the wake of its tensions with Tehran.

Following the attacks on Wednesday, US President Donald Trump made an address from the White House saying his country would be imposing fresh sanctions on Iran which would remain in place until the country “changes its behaviour.”

“As we continue to evaluate options in response to Iranian aggression, the United States will immediately impose additional punishing economic sanctions on the Iranian regime,” Trump said.

He underlined that the US forces “suffered no casualties” and only “minimal damage” was sustained at the military bases hit by Iran.




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