Australian troops stationed in the Persian Gulf are ready to go to war in Iraq, a defence force spokesman announced Thursday.
Replying the question that if Australian troops were ready to strike, spokesman Brigadier Mike Hannan said, "The answer is that the defence force is available for the government's decision," the Australian Associated Press reported.
More than 2,000 Australian troops and war equipment including 14 F/A Hornet fighter-bombers have been in the Persian Gulf. The Australian government has not yet made formal decision on its commitment to a war against Iraq. However, Prime Minister John Howard said Wednesday his government will decide on it as soon as the end of next week.
The defence force spokesman said, "The purpose of deploying forces into the Gulf is to give them the opportunity to acclimatise and train so that option was available to the government."
On the war against Iraq, Australia keeps in step of the United States from the very beginning. US President George W Bush has set March 14 as the deadline for the United Nations Security Council to vote on a draft resolution clearing the way for military action. In Australia, Howard said Thursday that after that date the Australian government would likely decide whether the Australian forces would be involved in military action.
Howard indicated Australia will join in the war whether or not the UN Security Council will pass the second resolution. He claimed he would prefer another resolution before force was taken, but it was not necessary for legal reasons. "We prefer very strongly that there be another Security Council resolution," Howard said. "Not because we need it for legal reasons, there is already enough legal authority contained in all the resolutions that have been passed to authorise the use of force to disarm Iraq," he added.
It was the same tone US Secretary of State Colin Powell played who has made it clear the United States reserved the right to attack Iraq even if the United Nations would not pass the resolution.