Australian govt considering to send more troops to Afghanistan: PM

CANBERRA, Jul 7, 2005 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Australian Prime Minister John Howard said Thursday his cabinet will discuss redeploying troops to Afghanistan at next week's cabinet meeting.

Afghanistan's foreign minister and ambassador have called for Australia to send more troops to Afghanistan.

"There's been a standing request from the government of Afghanistan over quite a period of time to a lot of countries including Australia to send troops," Howard told Australia's Southern Cross Broadcasting.

"Now we are going to look at it. I don't want to pre-empt what cabinet might decide. But we are going to look at it and if we do take a decision it will be announced next week," he said.

He said he had discussed the issue with Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and Defense Minister Robert Hill as well as the military.

Howard also ruled out pulling out Australian troops from Iraq, saying any decision will not affect Australia's troop deployment in the Middle East country.

"The two issues are quite separate and if we were to decide on Afghanistan it would be taken in isolation to our commitment to Iraq, and that commitment will remain until the job is finished," he said.

Australian troops served in Afghanistan in 2002, but at present there is only one Australian engineer being engaged in mine clearance in Afghanistan.